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Eligible DACA Recipients Are Almost Out Of Time To Renew Before Trump's Deadline

Dashed Arrow Scott Lynch/Gothamist

Make the Road New York, one of the state's largest immigrant advocate groups, is planning to overnight a final batch of DACA renewal forms around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday in order to get them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] under President Donald Trump's recently imposed deadline. All afternoon today and into the evening, the group is holding drop-in hours in its Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island offices.

"We've had appointments and clinics over the last three-and-a-half weeks but today we have open hours for anyone who has not met the deadline and is able to get to us in time," said Yasmine Farhang, the group's lead immigration attorney.

Last month, Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers deportation relief and work permits for non-citizens who traveled to the US as children, will sunset next March. He put the onus on Congress to pass new immigration protections, and set Thursday, October 5th as the last chance to file two-year renewal applications for any DACA recipient whose eligibility is set to expire before March 5, 2018.

Last week, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis called the October 5th deadline arbitrary and "heartless." With DACA, undocumented young adults are able to legally work. Many are breadwinners for their families, according to Make the Road, and rely on work permits to cover essential costs like rent and tuition.

The demand for renewals has been lower than anticipated, according to Camille Mackler, director of legal initiatives for the New York Immigration Coalition [NYIC]. There are several possible explanations for this. For one, she said, some seasoned DACA recipients quickly renewed when Trump's order came down. But attorneys in more rural parts of the state are concerned that "people didn't know about the deadline," she added.

Make the Road has processed about 150 renewals since the deadline was announced, according to Farhang. She stressed that this doesn't account for all renewals filed in NYC, Long Island and Westchester County, though "we do do a disproportionately high number."

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DACA recipients risking arrest outs
ide Trump Tower earlier this month. (Scott Heins/Gothamist)

USCIS says there are 7,600 DACA recipients across New York eligible for renewal before tomorrow, out of a total 32,900.

Nationally, there are 154,000 DACA recipients eligible for renewal, according to USCIS, or roughly 20 percent of the total 800,000. Approximately 54,000 renewals have been submitted since September 5th.

Mackler is concerned about the logistics of processing all of these renewals, and says she hasn't gotten any assurances that USCIS will have a grace period for application errors.

"USCIS just doesn't have capacity in their mailroom and lockbox facilities to accept and process these applications," she charged. "It's always happened that applications get lost."

"These requests must be properly filed and physically received by the agency at the proper filing location no later than Oct. 5," a spokesperson for USCIS wrote via email. "As with all of our benefit requests and petitions, USCIS allocates resources as needed to help process any increase in requests."

Farhang, of Make the Road, says she anticipates some people will miss tonight's deadline.

"Even if we have someone come in tomorrow, the fight to respond to the termination of DACA is really just kicking off," she said.

Several lawsuits are challenging the constitutionality of revoking DACA, while recipients continue to march and rally for a legal path to citizenship.

Jacquelyn Cortes, 22, traveled from Virginia to Manhattan for a DACA action last month. A bio-med student at the University of Virginia and DACA recipient, she urged allies to advocate for immigrant protections more ironclad than an executive order.

"This is really the time to step up and take action and try to get something that's actually permanent," she said.

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