Eligible DACA recipients have one week to renew as extension hopes fade

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Tens of thousands of eligible young immigrants with work permits and deportation protection under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have a week to renew for two more years before DACA ends in March.

When President Trump rescinded the program in early September, federal officials set a renewal deadline of Oct. 5 for DACA recipients whose status expires between then and March 5.

According to federal data, roughly 100,000 young people who would be eligible to renew under these rules had yet to file a renewal application as of Sept. 4. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said this week that between Sept. 5 and Sept. 27, the agency has received approximately 39,400 DACA renewal requests.

Since the announcement of DACA's impending end, legal providers have been working at a frantic pace to help recipients renew. In Southern California and elsewhere, legal nonprofits and advocacy groups have been scheduling free DACA renewal workshops, including one set for Saturday sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles.

Private donors have stepped in to help some applicants cover the $495 federal processing fee.

California lawmakers also recently approved additional funding for an immigrant-integration program, with the extra funds going to help low-income DACA recipients obtain legal help and pay their renewal fees.

But questions remain about how well the message to renew is getting out, whether everyone who can renew is doing so and and what will happen with the personal data they submit.

“I think there is a lot of apprehension in the community, about exactly what the administration might do with their information," said Stephanie Ryan, managing attorney with the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles.

Ryan said anyone who is afraid to file an application for fear of being later deported should at least consult with attorneys. "We hope that people at least come in to get screened and get some advice from a lawyer before making that decision on their own," she said.

Ryan said her organization has so far helped about 200 DACA recipients file renewal applications since the Trump administration's announcement. Another reason to get a legal screening, she said, is that some young people who currently have DACA may be eligible for other forms of immigration relief. 

Meanwhile, with time running out and potentially tens of thousands of DACA recipients yet to file, some lawmakers have asked the Trump administration to give applicants more time to renew.

"So far, we haven’t heard that they are willing to extend the deadline," said Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California.)

On Wednesday, Harris pressed Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke at a congressional hearing about extending the deadline.

Duke said she hoped "we can come up with a better solution through Congress," but she would not budge on the deadline. 

The acting secretary said the decision to give DACA recipients a month to renew "is something that we came up with to end the program in a compassionate manner." 

Duke acknowledged the government has not directly contacted DACA recipients about renewing. She also acknowledged that the cost of the fees is an issue for some immigrants.

"There is a money issue, I agree with you there," Duke responded, "but the process itself is very simple. So we will do what is right. It it an unconstitutional program, so that is constraining."

Several legal challenges to Trump’s decision to rescind DACA are pending in court.

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