Thousands May Have Missed the DACA Deadline Because the Government Never Informed Them of One

Today (Thursday, October 5) is the last day before Donald Trump’s administration slams the door on any further Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals. Because United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says applications must be received by today, not just postmarked (if that’s good enough for tax returns, why not this?), applications just on their way may miss the deadline. An estimated 154,000 DACA recipients who had status expiring between September 5 and March 5, 2018 were eligible to reapply by today, but Esther Lee of ThinkProgress reports that nearly 36,000 will miss this completely “arbitrary” deadline:

Immigrant advocates have repeatedly balked over the short deadline, saying that individuals displaced by hurricanes should get extensions. The White House has provided no indication it would extend the deadline, but the USCIS agency issued a statement saying it would allow exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The advocacy group Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), the largest immigrant rights organization in California, said this week that the October 5 deadline is “unrealistic and punishing.”

Plenty of factors, including the costly $495 renewal fee and complicated forms, weigh into why tens of thousands of renewal applications never made it in, but the federal government’s inaction is the most egregious. Vox’s Dara Lind reports that while “the Trump administration disclosed that 154,000 immigrants would be eligible for one last DACA extension as long as they applied by October 5,” this deadline information was not sent to DACA recipients. Not so much as an email or letter letting them know about this life-altering deadline, despite the federal government having their information. 

“No official notices went out to recipients,” tweeted immigrant rights leader and author Julissa Arce, herself once an undocumented immigrant. “We are the only microphone.”

USCIS’s “received by” stipulation whittled down the short renewal period even more—one federal judge called the administration’s refusal to extend the deadline even just a few weeks “heartless”—which has particularly affected DACA recipients living in areas of United States ravaged by natural disasters and government ineptitude, like Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Texas, over a quarter of DACA recipients living in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey weren’t able to submit renewal applications on time:

Data ThinkProgress received on October 4 also reveals a troubling trend in places hard hit by the recent spate of hurricanes. In Texas, 2,682 people in Hurricane Harvey-affected areas, or 28 percent of DACA recipients in the area, did not submit their applications in time. In Florida, 2,052 people in Hurricane Irma-affected areas, or 35 percent of recipients, did not submit their applications in time. In Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria left a widespread trail of destruction, 15 out of 28 total DACA beneficiaries did not renew in time. And in the U.S. Virgin Islands also hit by Hurricane Maria, one person out of a total of nine DACA recipients did not renew in time.

Once this day is over, for the first time since the DACA program’s implementation five years ago, no further DACA renewals will be accepted by the federal government. And once DACA statuses begin to expire, undocumented immigrant youth will begin losing work permits and protection from deportation. Entire families stand to get affected as breadwinners will lose the ability to work legally, students lose the ability to pay their college tuition, and young Americans who have known no other country but this one could be torn away from their homes.

“Overnight, thousands upon thousands of young immigrants who trusted our government and dared come out of the shadows to apply for DACA protections will be forcibly, cruelly, and inhumanely flung back to the shadows,” said CHIRLA’s Angelica Salas. “The question for us and for Congress now is what’s next?” There is a solution, and that solution is to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act sitting in both the House and Senate waiting for a chance for a floor vote. If you are outraged, channel that outrage into a phone call.

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