DACA Renewals Take Sluggish Pace

Although renewals for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries continue under court orders issued by federal judges, reported numbers show the rate and pace of immigrant applications as slow. General confusion caused by court challenges as well as pervasive fear due to political attitudes mean some immigrants are shunning the very program that offers them legal protections.

Currently, more than 9,000 immigrants who had received protections under DACA have dropped out of the program by neglecting to renew enrollment, according to The Los Angeles Times. Immigrants who’ve allowed their protected status to lapse now face a risk of deportation.  

DACA, introduced through an executive order by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects those undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. As beneficiaries, DACA recipients obtain legal status and also receive work authorizations dolled out in two-year increments. Approximately 800,000 immigrants– often referred to as Dreamers– enrolled in the program.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, a shift in the political winds means many immigrants perceive far more uncertainty about their current and future status. Last fall, for instance, the president announced an end to the Obama-era program. In March of this year, DACA officially expired.

It’s the job of elected officials in Congress, President Trump said, to determine the extent and degree of legal protections bestowed on immigrants and other class of individuals. But instead of hammering out a bill reflecting leadership negotiation, lawmakers failed to move forward in adopting any immigration law at all.

Lawmakers’ lack of political will on the matter brought the current ambiguity to fruition by opening the door to near endless court challenges around the DACA program. As attorneys representing the Trump Administration argue the president’s authority to end the program as legal, attorneys on the other side say ending DACA violates the rights of individuals who benefit from the program’s existence. The result means judges in the various jurisdictions where hearings occur base their decisions on something other than federal law.

The ambiguity of the situation reflected in especially low renewal numbers in January when the DACA window reopened after a court decision. Through the end of that month, only 11,000 DACA recipients renewed their status. Numbers improved in during February and March with 59,000 applications and 32,000 approvals. Some 51,000 applications were still pending for the period.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues processing DACA applications.

Due to federal court orders on Jan. 9, 2018 and Feb. 13, 2018, USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA,” according to an agency release. “If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, you may still file your DACA request as a renewal request.”