CHICAGO – Attorneys defending young undocumented foreigners who have benefitted under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are demanding that the government accept dozens of requests to renew their eligibility that arrived late to immigration authorities due to postal service errors, a situation that left their clients in legal limbo where they are at risk of being deported.
“The implementation of the end of DACA has been a disaster, as expected,” Kate Voigt, the head of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told EFE, warning that the mistake could leave the young people without the temporary immigration status that allows them to live, work and study in the US.
She said that the attorneys have “available options” to bring the case to court, although at present they prefer to appeal to the discretion of the authorities to avoid a lawsuit.
At least 50 young undocumented foreigners send in their requests to renew their DACA status weeks before the Oct. 5 deadline that the White House had established for 154,000 so-called “Dreamers” to renew that status, but their letters and documents did not arrive in time due to errors with mail delivery.
According to Department of Homeland Security figures, of the 154,000 Dreamers, between 21,000 and 22,000 did not renew their DACA eligibility or did not renew it in time, and now the program’s protection against deportation and the authorization to work have lapsed.
“The period could be extended beyond Oct. 5,” Voigt suggested as a potential solution, lamenting the fact that the situation in which the young people now find themselves is out of their control.
A US Postal Service spokesman admitted that there was a “unintentional temporary ... delay” in the processing of the correspondence in the Chicago area, where one of the country’s three immigration offices to which the Dreamers had to send their renewal requests is located.
“It was like a bucket of cold water,” said Venezuelan Laura Rodriguez, who arrived and settled in Chicago at age 15 and is now married with two children.
The DACA beneficiary, whose protected status expired in January and who sent in her renewal documentation three weeks before the deadline, said that she never thought that immigration authorities would reject her request and that she would find herself “in limbo.”
Rodriguez said that she suspected the delay could be a government “strategy.”
This suspicion echoed in a press release by Hasan Shafiqullah, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, who said that the rejections could not be isolated or coincidental incidents but rather “appear to be calculated, and are in line with (the Donald Trump) administration’s ongoing xenophobic campaign to marginalize and disenfranchise immigrants.”
The executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama that in 2012 created DACA does not set forth a mechanism for appealing problems of this kind, and so – attorneys say – much hinges on whether DHS will accept the postmarks on the renewal requests as the “date of delivery” of the documents.