The Trump administration this week decided to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a stipulated deadline of October 5 for eligible recipients to apply for a two-year renewal.
For these young men and women with permits set to expire, there is now a full-court sprint to ensure that their paperwork is completed on a condensed timeline. Volunteers in Virginia, for example, are scrambling to assist in the process of putting together clinics every weekend until the deadline to assist DREAMers in filling out paperwork. In California, phones have been ringing off the hook for immigrant legal advocacy groups who face the additional challenge of having to service clients that live hours away.
“Most people are used to filing their renewals about two to three months before their DACA expires. This time they’re not giving people that opportunity,” Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Virginia-based Immigrant Advocacy Program, told The Daily Beast. “We are really scrambling to make that happen.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Sandoval-Moshenberg said that his organization convened an emergency phone call with legal providers in Virginia to devise a plan for clinics across the state where DACA recipients can get help filling out necessary paperwork for their renewals. He said the challenge is not in completing the documentation but rather in doing it with no inaccuracies on such a short timeframe.
“It’s really not a heavy lift to renew someone’s DACA,” he said. “Most of these kids, this will actually be their second renewal. But on the flip side, you gotta to do it perfectly and exactly right.”
Sandoval-Moshenberg’s concern is that, in the past, if there was a mistake on the forms, recipients would be mailed back their application to fix certain items. Now, with a one-month turnaround, DACA recipients could end up not being able to fix their filing errors until after the October 5 deadline.
“We’re not counting on people to be given a chance to fix mistakes they’ve made,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
And the deadline is firm. President Trump tweeted on Thursday that DACA recipients “have nothing to worry about” during the six-month period before the program formally ends on March 5, 2018. But that was just with regards to the prospect of deportations. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said there had been no changes to the October deadline for filing renewals.
“Individuals whose DACA permits will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 are eligible to renew their permits. No person should lose benefits prior to March 5, 2018 if they properly file a renewal request and associated application for employment authorization by Oct 5, 2017,” David Lapan, spokesperson for DHS, told The Daily Beast.
Another potential hurdle for recipients completing these necessary renewals within the month is the sheer cost. Renewal applications cost an estimated $495 which is a taller order to turn around within 30 days than a few months.
“It does become prohibitive for some individuals to get that kind of money together,” Sara Feldman, project director for Ready California, told The Daily Beast. Ready California is a collaborative effort led in the state by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center to provide information and legal services to the immigrant community.
Feldman said that since Trump’s September 5 DACA announcement, the center’s partners throughout the state have been inundated with requests for more information and assistance. Community organizations across the state are already holding workshops, she said, “where people can get help with attorneys for renewals.”
During the two-year gap between necessitated renewals, DACA recipients may have changed addresses as well. So there is also some concern that filing renewal applications could entail handing over information to the federal government that could be used for future deportations. Immigration lawyers say they want to ensure that recipients do not use these fears as a rationale for not renewing.
“The marginal risk of what might happen if immigration has your address is far far outweighed by the clear benefit of getting two more years of protection,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
The Department of Homeland Security already indicated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers could be able to use the personal information of DACA recipients to deport them in the future. Essentially if ICE officers should ask for it, the agency will provide it according to their own guidance.
Feldman said the message to DACA recipients is to “not panic and expect that that’s something that’s going to happen.”
—Betsy Woodruff contributed reporting