There has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the state of DACA since the June 18 Supreme Court decision blocking DHS from terminating the program. In response to the decision, some who had never had DACA before immediately applied in the hopes USCIS would accept their applications. Others were understandably cautious and chose not to submit their applications for fear USCIS would automatically reject them. Lawsuits were filed and a federal judge in Maryland ordered that USCIS go back to accepting all DACA applications, including initials.
Recently, USCIS has provided clarity on the subject. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, it has decided to prohibit initial DACA applications and only allow renewals.
The two most recent USCIS memoranda state that USCIS, among other things, will:
- Limit the period of each DACA renewal grant from two years to one year;
- Reject all pending and future initial DACA applications and return all fees;
- Reject all pending and future advance parole applications and return all fees;
- Continue to adjudicate DACA applications for those whose prior DACA grants had expired or been terminated;
- Reject any renewal applications received more than 150 days before the current DACA will expire;
- Allow advance parole applications for current DACA holders ONLY if the parole is for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Some examples of these reasons are:
- “Travel to support the national security interests of the United States including U.S. military interests;
- Travel in furtherance of U.S. federal law enforcement interests;
- Travel to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment that is not otherwise available to the alien in the United States;
- Travel needed to support the immediate safety, well-being, or care of an immediate relative, particularly minor children of the alien.”
- Keep the DACA filing fee at $495, even though USCIS is raising many of its application fees on October 2.
By reducing the validity of DACA from two years to one year for each application, USCIS is essentially doubling the filing fee and creating an unnecessary burden on applicants and on the agency itself. By USCIS rejecting renewal applications received more than 150 days before one’s expiration date, and with its widespread processing delays, the result will likely be gaps in DACA holders’ status.
The Trump Administration may well terminate the DACA program again (in a way that would comply with the Supreme Court ruling), but for now, current DACA holders should keep renewing well before their current DACA expires, but not before 150 days of expiration.
There is litigation challenging these arbitrary and unfair policies that could result in additional changes to the program. Therefore, it is important to keep up-to-date on the status of DACA as time goes on.