DACA Applications Sent Weeks Before The Deadline Are Still Being Denied

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At least 41 applications to renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status have been denied because they were not delivered by an Oct. 5 deadline, The New York Times reports. But that's not the whole story. Though the applications were reportedly sent out on time, the applicants are being held accountable for a mistake that may have been out of their control.

All of the applications in question were reportedly sent to the Chicago U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) intake locations, and advocates say they were all sent well in advance of the deadline. According to several accounts from applicants who monitored their tracking information, many of the applications in question arrived in Chicago quickly, but then were inexplicably delayed for days, sometimes weeks, before they were delivered to USCIS.

"From the clients’ perspective, they did the right thing," Hasan Shafiqullah, director of the immigration unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York told the Times. "Filing three weeks before should be sufficient, and U.S.C.I.S. needs to recognize that and needs to exercise discretion."

Reportedly, USCIS spokespeople have said they are not responsible for delays caused by United States Post Office (USPS) error, though they did say they are committed to understanding how the errors occurred. Unlike other mail-in deadlines for other organizations, DACA renewals are considered to be on time based on when they are received, not when they are shipped. There also is no physical location for applicants to drop off paperwork — instead, it must be sent to one of three locations across the United States.

In many instances described by the Times, applications sent well in advance of the renewal deadline arrived in Chicago only to be held up from delivery for days. One applicant, for example, reportedly mailed their renewal information on Sept. 13, only to have it arrive on Oct. 6, one day after the deadline. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how the delays played out, based on various receipt dates mentioned in the report. Some applications mailed around the same time arrived in a timely manner, others floated around within the USPS system before delivery.

The USPS has taken responsibility for the delays. A spokesperson for the agency acknowledged there were “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area" at the time, according to the report.

Over 130,000 DACA applications were sent to the agency in what might be the last chance for renewals within the program. But ultimately, the DACA program is set to expire. On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff sessions announced that the program would be canceled, but allowed a brief renewal period for those whose status is set to expire before March 5, 2018. According to the Times, 154,000 people were eligible to reapply, and 132,000 applications were received on time. Around 4,000 were reportedly received late.

In August 2012, the Obama administration announced the creation of DACA, which offers deferment on deportation for undocumented people brought to the United States as children. Eligible applicants had to meet a series of strict education, employment, and timeline requirements. Among the criteria necessary, applicants had to be brought to the United States before their 16th birthday, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007. They could not be convicted of a crime, and also had to be either in school or hold some type of degree. Almost 790,000 people were estimated to have received protections under the program.

"Such an open ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch," Sessions said when he announced the program's termination on Sept. 5. He went on to say that DACA "contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences." Sessions also claimed that "hundreds of thousands" of jobs were denied to documented citizens because they were taken by "illegal aliens."

Despite such strong language, the Trump administration provided the program with a six month grace period, which is why it is slated to end in March. In theory, Congress was supposed to use those six months to come up with an alternative way to handle those eligible for DACA, but as of now, no legislation has been passed.