Washington, D.C. – Earlier this month, 20 U.S. Senators sent a letter to USCIS expressing their concerns regarding processing delays for DACA applications at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Since then, USCIS has released its quarterly report confirming the extreme processing delays of initial and renewal DACA application requests.
Between January and March 2021, the agency received nearly 50,000 initial DACA applications, of which less than 800 —or roughly 1.5% of applicants in that period— have been approved. The average processing time for DACA requests is currently between four and nine months, with some applications taking a full year to process. Under the Biden administration, the backlog of pending DACA applications has grown, with thousands of initial and renewal applications still pending.
As CBS News reports, “As of March 31, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had a backlog of more than 55,000 pending first-time DACA applications,” in addition to over 44,000 renewal requests. In this time, only about 1,000 first-time applications have been processed. While thousands of applicants anxiously wait to hear back from USCIS, an ongoing lawsuit in Texas could potentially end DACA before their applications are processed, leaving them and hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth in uncertainty.
Severe processing delays have also meant that some individuals’ DACA status has expired since submitting their renewal applications, forcing them to stop working amidst the pandemic. United We Dream members Cynthia Ramirez and Annette Barrios-Lopez are among DACA renewal applicants whose DACA status has expired as a result of ongoing processing delays at USCIS. In March, Ramirez was forced to stop working as a teacher’s assistant. Without a steady income, she has struggled to make ends meet and support her mom who has found it difficult to find work during the pandemic.
For hundreds of thousands of people across the country, DACA has provided temporary relief from deportation and access to greater educational and employment opportunities. However, DACA has never been enough, with ongoing attacks against the program and processing delays continuing to put the lives of DACA recipients and first-time applicants at risk. In addition to addressing these delays, President Biden and Democrats in Congress must act now to deliver a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants now!