It's beginning to look like a lot of immigrants were denied one last renewal of their deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — even though they made good-faith efforts to file their paperwork.
A mysterious mail slowdown, which the New York Times reported on last week, appears to have affected at least 74 DACA recipients in the New York City area and Chicago. But the problem may be much bigger than that.
The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Trump administration (in a motion filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of New York and shared with Vox) allege that many more DACA renewal applications did arrive in a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mailbox on October 5 — and were rejected as late anyway.
In interviews with the plaintiffs and with other immigration lawyers, Vox has confirmed at least 19 cases, at two of the three mailboxes that USCIS used to accept DACA applications, where applications were placed in the mailbox in the late afternoon or evening of October 5 but marked as "received" on October 6.
The scale of the problem indicates there are likely to be dozens or hundreds more, and that applications sitting in the mailbox on October 5 could represent a substantial portion of the 4,000 DACA renewal applications the government says it received late. (At press time, USCIS had not responded to requests for comment about specific allegations.)
Furthermore, the plaintiffs — led by the advocacy groups Make the Road New York and the National Immigration Law Center, as well as lawyers and law students from Yale Law School — allege that some applications that USCIS had received earlier were rejected for reasons the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue are "arbitrary." One applicant, the lawsuit alleges, got her renewal application rejected because a USCIS employee misread the date on her check.
"A lot of people would have thought, 'If I get them to them on the address they give me, by the day they say I should send it by, that's enough,'" says Kate Voigt, the associate director for government relations of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. But it wasn't. The discrepancy, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue, constitutes a violation of the Fifth Amendment's right of due process.
The claims in the lawsuit, and those made by the other lawyers Vox has talked to, raise concerns that USCIS is being stricter than usual with DACA renewals — and perhaps arbitrarily denying them. It definitely makes it clear that many DACA recipients, who President Donald Trump has claimed would be safe until March 5, are going to lose their protections from deportation and work permits before that, despite doing everything the government asked them to.