There's a bit of good news for undocumented young people whose renewal applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were delivered late: DACA recipients now can resubmit their paperwork if it was delayed in the mail. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency said last week that it would not accept at least 115 DACA renewal requests because they were delivered late, but now has reversed that decision. The agency changed its mind after the U.S. Postal Service took the blame for some delayed applications, saying an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay" affected dozens of DACA recipients who mailed their renewal applications well in advance of the deadline.
According to The New York Times, Elaine Duke, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told USCIS to permit new submissions if applicants prove that USPS delays made them miss the Oct. 5 deadline. Lawyers and politicians reported mail service delays in multiple states, including Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Washington state. Four thousand DACA renewal applications were rejected on the basis of being delivered past the deadline, but mail service delays were reported at all three USCIS intake locations — or "lockboxes" — in Phoenix, Chicago, and the Dallas suburb of Lewisville.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, USCIS attributes its reversal not only to the delays, but also to the fact that "the DACA policy has been rescinded and individuals can no longer request deferred action under DACA." When the Trump administration announced it would phase out the program, it said only DACA recipients whose permits were set to expire before March 5, 2018 could apply for a two-year renewal by the Oct. 5 deadline. Because DACA is not accepting any new applicants, USCIS is allowing those whose renewal applications were affected by mail service delays to reapply.
The agency's decision came on the same day that 24 Senate Democrats called on Duke, the acting DHS secretary, to reconsider the agency's previous refusal to accept new applications.
"We are deeply troubled that despite the best efforts of many DACA recipients to submit their applications to DHS before October 5, the Department has rejected thousands of DACA renewal applications that arrived after the deadline," the Democratic senators wrote. "We encourage you to weigh the life-changing consequences many will face in the absence of action by the Department."
In addition to the mail service delays, USCIS notes in its statement that additional DACA renewal applications were mistakenly rejected after being received on time. "USCIS had discovered certain cases in which the DACA requests were received at the designated filing location (e.g., at the applicable P.O. Box) by the filing deadline, but were rejected," the statement reads. "USCIS will proactively reach out to those DACA requestors to inform them that they may resubmit their DACA request."
For many immigration advocates, the mail service delays was more proof that the Trump administration's Oct. 5 deadline — DACA renewal applications had to be received by USCIS, not postmarked, by that date — was "arbitrary." The deadline was set for just one month after the administration announced it was ending the program, and hundreds of thousands of current DACA recipients were not even allowed to apply for renewal because their status wasn't set to expire until after March 5, 2018. On top of that, many DACA recipients who reportedly mailed their renewal applications way before the deadline still had their applications marked late because they were not taken out of USCIS' lockboxes until after the deadline.
Camille Mackler, the director of legal immigration policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, told the The New York Times that USCIS was making the right choice. “We’re glad to see USCIS do the right thing by accepting these applications,” Mackler told the Times. “This news will come as a huge relief to DACA recipients who had been living with enormous anxiety for weeks now.”