As of March 9, 2017, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or “DACA”) program is still in effect. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently accepting new applications and renewing previous periods of DACA status. There are over 750,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. However, the fact remains that the program could be cancelled at any time by the White House. The Trump Administration has been quoted on TV stating that DACA will continue, and that they hope to even extend further benefits to those with DACA, and that future guidance will come regarding the program. Hopefully that will be the case, as President Trump could have cancelled the program on his first day in office and he chose to leave it.
In March of 2017, 22 year old Daniela Vargas was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after speaking out at a public press conference. Vargas had previously been granted DACA, but it expired in November 2016. She did not renew her status in a timely manner because she could not afford the $495 renewal fees. Her petition to renew was filed in February 2017, 3 months after the expiration of her status, and it remains pending with USCIS. It currently takes approximately 4 to 5 months for USCSIS to approve a DACA application, either for renewal or for initial applications.
It is important to remember that, even if a client had DACA in the past (or another type of immigration benefit), if the status is currently expired, it is crucial to renew it as soon as possible. Even a single day without proof of status could be dangerous. Ms. Vargas’s case indicates that ICE is not going to give time for USCIS to process renewals in the event of detention. DACA recipients are permitted to renew their status with USCIS as early as 120 days before the expiration of their status, to give the agency sufficient time to renew the application prior to the expiration. Before, under the Obama administration, DACA recipients could expect generous treatment with both ICE and in the immigration courts to file and obtain new proof of status. But it appears, as with Ms. Vargas’s case, that those days are over.