DACA Application Backlog Puts Thousands of Recipients at Risk of Losing Work Permits

As a result of a paperwork backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) application and renewal process has been significantly delayed, preventing undocumented people from receiving DACA benefits and existing DACA recipients from being able to work due to expired permits.

Over 62,000 first-time DACA applications had been submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as of May 31st, but only 1,900 of those applications had been adjudicated by that date.

According to a CNN report Wednesday, about 13,000 DACA recipients have been waiting over four months for their renewal cases to be processed by the USCIS. These 13,000 recipients can lose their ability to work in the U.S. if their permits are not renewed on time. DACA recipients are required to renew every two years.

Ju Hong, a DACA recipient since 2012, was fired from his job and lost his health insurance because the USCIS did not renew his permit on time, CNN reported. Hong had applied for a renewal when expected, but his permit expired due to USCIS’s backlog and subsequent delays.

Luckily, Hong was notified on Wednesday that his DACA permit had been renewed. He is now waiting on approval of his work authorization.

In response to the delays caused by the paperwork backlog, the Biden administration is set to increase the number of immigration officers assigned to process DACA applications and renewal cases. The USCIS is also addressing technical issues, staffing shortages, and other administrative difficulties that have led to delays.

“I am pleased to see USCIS has taken action following our call to address DACA delays, and I am hopeful that their recent efforts, including training more officers on initial DACA applications, will help address the challenges facing our Dreamers,” said Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV). “Moving forward, USCIS must continue to prioritize speeding up their application processing, so Dreamers are not suffering the consequences of delays.”

DACA recipients are already unsure of the reliability of the program, as an upcoming court decision in Texas over DACA’s legality could upend recipients’ status.

The House passed a bill in March that would give DACA recipients the opportunity to apply for permanent legal status and ultimately citizenship. However, the bill is unlikely to garner enough votes in the Senate.

“Even with DACA in place, we know that Dreamers live in a constant state of fear about their status and their future,” said Vice President Harris in a meeting with immigrant care workers on Tuesday.

“It is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security.”

Sources: The Hill 7/14/21; CBS 7/13/21; CNN 7/15/21;

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