"Is this Juan Escalante?" the woman asked via a private Twitter message. "Yes, how can I help you?" I replied, "My DACA is about to expire, and my boss is going to fire me. I don't know what to do..."
This is one of two individual stories, both coming out Chicago, that got me thinking about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal process. Having gone through the renewal process myself, I felt curious about how it was possible for DACA-eligible immigrants to be left stranded without documents once again. Would they lose their jobs, like the woman who had contacted me via Twitter? Would they be forced to drive with an expired driver's license?
The answer to my questions arrive via a BuzzFeed story, which revealed that these were not isolated cases:
Exactly 11,028 young immigrants have had their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and work permits expire in spite of having applied on time, according to numbers released for the first time to BuzzFeed News by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles the permits.
The number of lapsed cases represents roughly 5% of the total number of DACA renewals that USCIS has approved so far.
After some back and forth via email, I was able to point both of the individuals who reached out to me in the right direction. Both of their renewals came in two weeks after their original DACA had expired.
The following advice should not be taken as replacement for that of a seasoned attorney. However, from one undocumented immigrant to another, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding DACA:
Is DACA going away?
If Marco Rubio's comments about DACA are any indication of where the program is headed, then you should probably be cautiously optimistic. While nobody can give you any assurances of what will happen to the program once President Obama leaves the White House, you should seek to apply or renew your DACA as soon as possible.
Note that DACA, the 2012 program that President Obama announced back in 2012, is still active. The expansion of DACA (also known as DACA+) and DAPA are currently stalled due to a federal lawsuit.
When should I apply for my DACA renewal?
USCIS established very specific guidelines as to how you should proceed with your renewal process. Outside of getting an attorney, should you have any questions about whether you are eligible for renewal, you should really take the time to prepare.
Yes, preparation is the one message everyone keeps drilling into your head -- but nothing should be left to chance with USCIS.
You should approach the first day of your renewal window as your deadline. And I don't mean as the day you put your paperwork together, but rather, the day that you physically walk your renewal application to the post office and pay for it to be delivered overnight.
My DACA is delayed, what should I do?
My approach to this varies. Again, I cannot stress enough the need to seek legal advice, but should you find yourself on your own then proceed to contacting USCIS. Many people live and die by what the USCIS website tell them. Rather, call USCIS or schedule an appointment at your local office (should you be near one).
If you have filed your renewal request at least 120 days before your deferred action expires and USCIS is delayed in processing your renewal request, USCIS may provide you with DACA and employment authorization for up to an additional 120 days.
Above all, do not panic. Short of you receiving official word from USCIS explicitly stating that your case has been denied, via their website or correspondence, then your case is probably caught up in the delay.
Where can I find resources?
USCIS already provides play by play updates on what is happening with their caseload. However, there are several organizations that are ready to provide support should you need it. Questions? There are answers out there for you. Need help with your case? There are groups dedicated to help you along the way.
USCIS has told the Associated Press that they are aware of the delays, and that they are working expedite approvals without compromising the integrity of the process. While you wait, should your DACA renewal be caught up in the delay, know that you are not alone and that there are many people willing to lend you a hand.