Thousands of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) are reportedly trying to keep or renew their permits to remain in the U.S., but the process has stalled because of a backlog of applications that piled up amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CNN reported on Wednesday that around 13,000 renewal cases for DACA recipients have been pending for more than four months, according to correspondence from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), obtained by the network.
Thousands of first-time applications for DACA permits are also in the process of being reviewed, according to CNN.
Recipients of the program are being especially proactive in renewing their permits, which is required every two years, because of a pending case in a Texas court, which is examining the legality of the DACA, according to CNN.
The case, which is before Judge Andrew Hanen and was brought by Texas and a group of states in 2018, has the potential to put the program in jeopardy, the network noted.
In preparation for the court's decision, a number of recipients are applying for renewal and new candidates are submitting applications, but longer delays are reportedly causing some to lose their jobs.
One recipient, Ju Hong, told CNN that he was terminated from his job earlier in July after his permit, which he has held since 2012, expired, even though he applied for a routine renewal. He lost his health insurance as a result.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, Hong received a call from USCIS that his permit had been renewed. He is still waiting to hear if his work authorization was given approval.
The USCIS recognized that there have been some delays in applications and petitions, pointing to the pandemic and a surge in paperwork, among other factors. They did say, however, that first-time DACA applications and renewal requests remain within normal processing times.
“USCIS also knows that policies and procedures have a direct impact on the lives of DACA recipients and we are committed to minimizing processing delays to help facilitate access to benefits and restore confidence in the system,” agency spokesperson Victoria Palmer said in a statement to CNN.
“USCIS is also increasing public outreach efforts to ensure that immigrant communities across the country have access to information on how to apply for benefits for which they may be eligible,” she added.
Vice President Harris on Tuesday reaffirmed her commitment to immigration reform, calling on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, during a meeting with immigrant care workers.
The renewed push came on the ninth anniversary of DACA.
“Even with DACA in place, we know that Dreamers live in a constant state of fear about their status and about their future,” Harris said.
“It is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security,” she continued.
The House in March passed a pair of bills that would establish a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and some migrant farm workers.