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DACA Relief Can’t Wait Until March 5

There’s a widespread misunderstanding about when President Trump’s withdrawal of DACA status for young immigrants will put them at risk of deportation. Even some key policymakers assume that nothing bad will happen until March 5, and, thus, there’s no pressing need for policymakers to act before then. But that’s not the case, and policymakers should act expeditiously to protect these young immigrants.

As Vox’s Dara Lind explained in a highly informative article (“Thousands of immigrants are losing their DACA protections already”), substantial numbers of young immigrants protected under DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) have already been affected, and more may be affected with each passing week.

As Lind explained, President Trump’s September 5 Executive Order gave people whose DACA status would come up for renewal before March 5 — DACA renewals run for two years at a time — only until October 5 to submit their renewal applications. Moreover, the Administration did not notify immigrants of the October 5 deadline and, as a result, not all of the affected DACA holders applied before the artificial deadline. While 132,000 of the 154,000 affected individuals submitted their renewal applications by October 5, the other 22,000 did not. With each passing week, more of these young 22,000 individuals have been seeing their DACA protections end because their existing two-year DACA status expired without being renewed.

Moreover, some of these 22,000 people did, in fact, submit renewal applications by October 5, but their applications weren’t received by then due to Postal Service delays. Lind documents the case of a renewal application that was mailed in mid-September but wasn’t delivered to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) until October 6, a day late. CIS said at first that it wouldn’t consider such applications. It then said that it would, but only for those who could submit proof that they submitted their applications before the deadline, leaving a number of these individuals unprotected.

Finally, while a federal court has issued a ruling to block the President’s order and enable young immigrants with DACA status to once again file renewal applications, that could end quickly. The Administration has vowed to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s ruling.

In short, policymakers don’t have until March 5 to act. The President and lawmakers of both parties say they want to avoid the dire effects of a DACA cut-off, and a large majority of the public agrees, according to polling. When DACA holders lose DACA protections, the impact is harsh – they lose their protection from deportation, their authorization to work legally, and more. For all these reasons, the time for policymakers to act is now.