President Biden reinstated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program soon after his election to the relief of eligible undocumented youth who missed their opportunity to get status under the Trump administration.
Many eligible immigrant youths applied for DACA six months after Biden signed the Executive Order reinstating the program. However, as many as 60,000 and more of these new DACA applicants have yet to receive approved applications from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
USCIS approved only about 1,900 DACA program applicants from January to May. This is just 3% of the total 62,000 first-time applicants who submitted Form I-821D.
As of June 30, according to the USCIS website (www.USCIS.gov), there was a backlog of over 81,000 applications. DACA renewal requests also faced very long processing times. There is a backlog of over 13,000 DACA renewal applications.
USCIS cites many causes of long wait times and processing delays. These causes include the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing number of applicants. There have also been delays in biometrics appointments at field offices, which have impacted normal processing times.
Immigration advocates want USCIS service centers to approve more applications. DACA is crucial for undocumented immigrants for many reasons. First, DACA recipients can receive work authorization with work permits (officially named “employment authorization documents” (EAD)). DACA recipients can also get many important documents, like social security cards and even driver’s licenses in certain states, like California. Furthermore, DACA protects recipients from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deportations. Recipients even can travel abroad and return with advance parole.
Fortunately, the Biden administration is working to reduce the backlog. The administration has assigned more immigration officers to review DACA applications. USCIS plans to create public awareness campaigns that will educate potential applicants about how to reduce their processing times. They have also fixed technical problems that delayed the process.
Unfortunately, on July 16, a federal district judge in Texas ruled that DACA was unlawful. In May 2018, nine Republican led states formed a coalition to challenge the program. This July ruling blocks USCIS from accepting new applicants. However, current DACA recipients are still protected and can keep their status, and DACA renewals are still allowed.
USCIS is still accepting DACA applications, but is not processing them because of the new ruling. The Biden administration has promised to protect DACA and stated that the Department of Justice will appeal this decision. Whether or not USCIS will process new applications depends on the outcome of the appeal.
The Biden administration has also promised support for legislation to open U.S. citizenship to DACA recipients. However, it is unclear if the legislation, called the American Dream and Promise Act, will pass the Senate. In response to the ruling, Biden called on Congress to pass this legislation.
Applying for DACA can be challenging. If you cannot afford legal advice from an immigration attorney, we may be able to help. Eligible DACA applicants can get free help with their paperwork from ImmigrationHelp.org.