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DACA recipients, facing long waits for renewal, risk losing their jobs

Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

It's been three months since Miguel has been able to work at his job as a sustainability and inclusion manager at a professional services firm in San Francisco.

The 32-year-old Philippines native — who asked that The Times not identify his company or use his full name — wasn't fired or laid off. Instead he was placed on temporary unpaid leave — all because of a bureaucratic backlog in processing work-permit applications for participants in DACA, the Obama-era program that offered deportation protection to immigrants without lawful status who arrived as youth.

Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must reapply every two years for protection and work permits. But many of the roughly 530,000 current DACA holders have recently reported lengthy processing delays.

For some, like Miguel, that has meant a months-long unemployment as he and his employer awaited the necessary paperwork. The delays have cost others their jobs, immigrant advocates say.

"The whole situation just brings me back to imagining the worst-case scenario," he said, referring to fears of one day being deported to a country he hasn't considered home since age 7. "Recently I went into a pretty depressive state as a result of all those 'what ifs.'"

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services aims to process each renewal fairly and efficiently, said spokesman Matthew Bourke. But he acknowledged that some DACA recipients have experienced processing times beyond 120 days in recent months.

 

He blamed delays on technology updates, but said the issues have been resolved and that the majority of DACA renewal requests are processed within the 120-day goal period. Agency data show the median processing time doubled from two weeks in fiscal year 2022 to one month last year. This year the median is just under two months, as of April 30.

In a letter last month, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and 27 other senators urged USCIS director Ur Jaddou to process renewal applications in a timely manner.

"DACA recipients face significant uncertainty given litigation challenging the DACA program, and threats by presidential candidate Donald Trump to end the program," Padilla and the other senators wrote. "Delays in processing DACA renewals are adding to the instability and uncertainty that DACA recipients already face each day."

Program administrators encourage DACA recipients to apply early for renewals. Nearly 87% of renewals are filed later than the recommended minimum time frame of 120 days, Bourke said.

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