The delays in DACA renewals have “catastrophic” consequences

The program that turns 12 on June 15 may disappear if Trump is reelected

As if it were not enough to be in suspense over the future of DACA in the courts, potentially the Supreme Court, or the possibility that Donald Trump, who intends to cancel the program, could win the presidency in November, Dreamers face severe delays in the renewal of their work permits, and many have lost their jobs.

Many causes have been named for the lag by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), among them technical glitches, a shortage of staff, and the fact that the agency might be giving priority to recently arrived migrants seeking asylum and TPS beneficiaries.

What causes the delays?

Whatever the cause may be, the delays adversely affect those who benefited from the program that, on June 15, will celebrate 12 years of existence after being initiated by President Barack Obama. DACA is the acronym of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which extends deportation protection to some 600,000 young people, and work permits that are renewable every two years.

A 2023 report from found that, since 2012, the first group of DACA beneficiaries has multiplied its annual income by a factor of 7, contributed $108 billion dollars to the economy, and $33 billion in combined taxes.

I spoke with someone who has benefited from DACA since 2012. He did not want to give his name, but shared that he applied to renew his work permit in January, but the petition has not been processed. His work permit expired. The company for which he works decided to wait for him, for now, and granted him unpaid personal leave.

But this young man is the economic rock of his parents and siblings. Losing his income has been devastating, taking into account that his father, who is also undocumented, suffered a heart attack and the medical bills are large.

“The mental health aspect is really the hardest for me…In terms of my self worth as a provider,” he said.

“And my biggest fear is that I won’t get my DACA renewed or I won’t get my work authorization for the next two years. And then, with DACA going to the Supreme Court and if it gets taken away, what am I gonna do? Do I go back to working under the table? Do I go back to car detailing? Do I move out of the country? Do I go back to the country where I was born, which I don’t really know? Do I ask my girlfriend to marry me?”

Don’t play with human lives

President Joe Biden said: “Before he took office there were a lot of promises and a lot of statements around support, and reform, and changes to be made which we have yet to have seen. We’ve suffered because of policies that were in place during his administration and the previous [Trump] administration.”

“We can’t  just keep rebranding what the administration promised to do and holding it off. Lives are not something to play with, to be used as a tactic for a victory.”

Karen Tumlin, an immigration lawyer and founder and director of Justice Action Center, pointed out that DACA beneficiaries apply for their work permit renewals four or five months ahead of the expiration date. But the renewals have not been received in that timeframe.

USCIS claims that some of the delayed cases requested renewal 100 days earlier, but that had never been a problem, said Tumlin. What is required, she added, is to appropriate more funds to add staff to process the renewals.

According to the attorney, USCIS should automatically issue a temporary renewal, as it does for other categories of immigrants, so that they do not fall out of status. It would be “a temporary bridge auto-renewal of 30, 60 or 180 days to deal with administrative backlogs.”

Tumlin does not know how many Dreamers have lost their jobs because of these delays, but she affirmed that the consequences on an individual level are “catastrophic.” They not only lose the ability to work, but also protection from deportation.

The fear of losing everything after the elections

“There’s huge stress for DACA recipients about the election. Will DACA end with a new president? Will DACA end through the court case? And the last thing that they want is to miss any days of having a protected status,” said Tumlin.

About Biden, she said: “DACA recipients themselves and advocates and allies delivered to president Biden an intact DACA program after four years of the Trump presidency. We haven’t seen any extensions of the program and at a minimum, [Biden] needs to make sure that individuals are not, on his watch, falling out of status because of bad processing times from [USCIS].”

“My clients are emotionally exhausted…It’s very hard to put into words the impact of that stress and then lose your ability to do what you’re doing, day-to-day, which is to provide for yourself and your families. It’s truly catastrophic,” Tumlin concluded.

The original Spanish version is here.


  • Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor and columnist at America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund. A native of Puerto Rico, Maribel is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with a major in public communications and a history minor. She worked for La Opinión, and became La Opinión’s first Washington, D.C. correspondent in 1993. Maribel has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Media Leadership Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for her coverage of the immigration debate in the U.S. Senate.

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