Immigrant rights group offers to pay DACA renewal fee

Immigrant rights group offers to pay DACA renewal fee
© Greg Nash

An immigrant rights advocacy group in California is offering to pay the $495 renewal fee for eligible DACA recipients.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) on Thursday announced its "Renew and Secure It" campaign to offer Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants free legal consultations, renewal processing services and payment of the renewal fee.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE officially rescinded DACA last September, but court action has forced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to continue processing renewals for existing program beneficiaries past the March 5 deadline the president had set to end the program.

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CHIRLA legal services director Luis Perez said he is worried about the low numbers of DACA recipients that have renewed their permits.

"We are very concerned DACA recipients nationally are not renewing their permits in the high numbers we were expecting," Perez said.

In 2015, DACA renewals peaked at 363,553. To remain in the program, those applicants would have had to renew their permits between 2017 and 2018.

However, between October of 2017 and March of 2018, only 93,857 DACA recipients had renewed their permits, according to DHS numbers. 

When Trump made his September announcement, the administration gave recipients whose permits expired before March a month to process their renewal applications. At the time, many recipients were blindsided with having to raise the $495 fee in short notice.

Trump set the March deadline to begin a wind-down process to fully eliminate DACA, but three court injunctions have stopped his order, forcing the renewal process to continue.

A fourth court did away with Trump's rescission, which would compel DHS to also grant new applications, but then gave the government 90 days to explain its decision to terminate DACA.

A competing lawsuit seeking to render DACA unconstitutional was filed earlier this month by Texas and six other states, adding to confusion over the program's future.

Existing or past DACA beneficiaries are currently allowed to apply for renewal, but new applicants who would have aged into eligibility are not being considered.

Perez cited the multiple court cases among the reasons DACA recipients chose not to renew their permits.

"It may be due to fear of the anti-immigrant rhetoric led by President Trump, not having sufficient funds to pay the $495 USCIS fees, confusion due to all the court rulings and legal threats, or because they may incorrectly assume a permanent solution such as the DREAM Act may be in the works," he said.

"Whatever the reason," he added, "we want DACA recipients to know during the next 2 and a half months they have an opportunity here at CHIRLA to apply and secure two more years of protection."

Applicants will be received for "triage days" at CHIRLA's office in Los Angeles on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

At the height of the Obama-era program, nearly 800,000 so-called "Dreamers" — undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors — were allowed to work and live in the United States without fear of deportation.

When Trump ended the program in September, around 690,000 Dreamers were protected by DACA.