USCIS DACA renewal delays put livelihoods at risk for recipients as agency prioritizes migrants

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
DACA recipients say renewal delays put livelihoods at risk
USCIS DACA renewals are being delayed as the agency prioritizes work permits for migrants, putting recipients' livelihoods at risk.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are nearly 600,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program nationwide. For the last 11 years they have been allowed to work, go to school and drive.

But their DACA permit must be renewed every two years, and increasingly some say renewals are not being processed in time, leaving people at risk of losing their livelihoods.

Thirty-three-year-old DACA recipient Ana Cristina Arce balances her job with raising five children, and her life may be about to get a lot harder as her work permit and driver's license are set to expire Friday.

"I'm frustrated, I'm scared but what can I do? I can't go around screaming. I pray a lot," she said.

Like most DACA recipients, the U.S. is all Arce knows; she was brought here when she was 2 years old. This is the fifth time she's submitted a renewal, which she did online in mid-September 2023. But despite multiple phone calls, requests to have her case expedited, and even intervention from her congressman, she's still waiting.

"My direct manager actually reached out to me and said she's really sorry about the situation. If there is anything they can do to help. She said she will not replace me. She's going to wait as long as she can," she said.

Stories like Arce's are, according to immigration advocates, becoming increasingly common. The federal agency tasked with processing DACA renewals has turned its attention to approving work permits for tens of thousands of newly arrived migrants who are now clogging the system.

"We have seen USCIS work really quickly, especially when it comes to new arrivals. I think it's a matter of not prioritizing DACA recipients," said Laura Mendoza of the Resurrection Project.

A DACA recipient herself, Mendoza said it's not about pitting one group against the other but rather finding a permanent solution for those once known as Dreamers.

"This was supposed to be temporary and it hasn't been. We need to figure out what do we make, how do we make this fair for those DACA recipients who have been here, who have been contributing, who have been part of the U.S.?" she said.

For its part, USCIS does not acknowledge a delay in processing times, pointing to their website which shows a one month processing time in DACA renewals during 2023.