U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says it will review DACA renewal applications that were delayed in the mail past the filing deadline to see if they should be accepted.
When the administration of Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, it allowed DACA recipients whose benefits were expiring to renew one last time, if they sent in their renewal papers by October 5. The idea, according to officials, was that no DACA recipients would lose their benefits for six months, before March 5, 2018.
DACA has sheltered about 800,000 undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation and has given them work permits that need to be renewed every two years.
The New York Times reported last Friday that in New York and Chicago about 75 renewal applications that had been mailed well before the deadline were held up by U.S. Postal Service delays. While the post office apologized, the newspaper reported that USCIS initially refused to accept the applications.
In a reversal Wednesday night, USCIS said that it would take a second look at renewal applications that suffered post office delays if senders can prove "that the request was originally mailed in a timely manner and that the cause for receipt after the Oct. 5, 2017, deadline was the result of USPS mail service error."
Additionally, USCIS said it is looking at instances when "DACA requests were received at the designated filing location (e.g., at the applicable P.O. Box) by the filing deadline, but were rejected."
These cases were the subject of a complaint filed in a New York federal court on Tuesday. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups allege the government rejected applications for the renewal of DACA protections as late even though they met the deadline and were in a USCIS mailbox.
The amended complaint was filed in the Eastern District of New York as part of a previous lawsuit against the administration's DACA decision.
Plaintiffs Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and lawyers and law students from Yale University claim that the USCIS’ failure to inform applicants that not all applications would be accepted on the same day of the deadline violated due process as provided by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.
The complaint also says applications that reached USCIS before the deadline were arbitrarily rejected. In one case, the application of a client of the advocacy organization Make the Road New York was rejected because a USCIS employee misread the date on the applicant’s check as "2012" and not "2017."
In Wednesday's statement USCIS says it will "proactively reach out" to DACA renewal applicants who were unfairly rejected to let them know they can resubmit.
"If a DACA requestor does not receive such a notification and believes that his or her DACA request was received at the designated filing location by the filing deadline, he or she may resubmit his or her DACA request with proof that the request was previously received at the designated filing location on or before the filing deadline," USCIS says,adding the more guidance is to come.
USCIS has said that 132,000 immigrants submitted their applications on time. But USCIS also reported in an October 18 court filing for the groups' original lawsuit that another 4,000 applications were late and had been rejected.