In reversing its position, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says it has agreed to allow nearly 100 applications from young undocumented Caribbean and other nationals to renew permits that allow them to stay and work in the United States legally.
The applications were rejected because they had been delayed in the mail.
Last week, USCIS said nothing could be done, stating that the decisions were final, according to the New York Times.
But, on Wednesday, the agency reversed its position in light of the delays, agreeing to allow those rejected to resubmit their renewals for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Times said.
It said the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director, Elaine C. Duke, told the immigration agency to allow applicants to resubmit their paperwork if they have proof that they mailed their renewal in a timely manner and that the reason it missed the Oct. 5 deadline was because of Postal Service delays.
Homeland Security issued the guideline in a statement Wednesday night.
“We’re glad to see USCIS do the right thing by accepting these applications,” said Camille Mackler, the director of legal immigration policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, an immigrant advocacy group. “This news will come as a huge relief to DACA recipients who had been living with enormous anxiety for weeks now.”
At least 74 applications from the New York area and Chicago were known to have been rejected as a result of mail problems in Chicago, for which the Postal Service took responsibility, the Times said. The immigration agency said it was “not responsible” for mail delays.
In New York, lawyers reported that 18 out of 34 applications had actually arrived at the Chicago location on Oct. 5, according to postal receipts, and yet they were not accepted by the immigration agency until the next day, the Times reported.
The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged this in a statement on Wednesday.
“In addition, USCIS had discovered certain cases in which the DACA requests were received at the designated filing location (e.g., at the applicable P.O. Box) by the filing deadline, but were rejected,” it said. “USCIS will proactively reach out to those DACA requesters.”
Officials from the immigration agency said they were still investigating the cause and location of the problems, according to the Times.
Details about the date of the deadline to resubmit applications would be forthcoming, the agency said.
On Sept. 5, the Trump administration canceled the Obama-era DACA program, which allowed nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children to work and go to school in the United States without fear of deportation, the Times said.
It said those whose permits were expiring before March 5, 2018, were permitted to renew their application by Oct. 5 for a two-year period.
The deadline led to a frenzy of 132,000 applications, according to the immigration agency.
At least 4,000 renewals were rejected because they were late, according to a government official in an Oct. 18 deposition in a US federal lawsuit over the cancellation of DACA.
It was not clear how many of those 4,000 were rejected because of mail delivery issues, and if that number had increased since Oct. 18, the Times said.
But, as of Wednesday, it said the number of DACA renewal applicants who had been rejected because of mail delays had increased to at least 115, including cases in Texas, Wisconsin, Washington State, North Carolina and Michigan.
“We are pleased to see the government has changed its position,” said Emily Villano, a Yale Law School student involved in the case, but she said that “significant uncertainty” remains.
Stephen M. Pezzi, a trial lawyer in the civil division of the Justice Department, said that officials hoped to resolve the issues facing “all or nearly all” of the immigrants whose applications were denied because of mail delays, reported the Times.
It said DACA recipients celebrated the reversal with gratitude. In New York, a husband and wife had their applications sent on Sept. 26, along with 13 other renewals from the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, an advocacy organization, the Times said.
It said all of those renewals were accepted by the immigration agency on Oct. 1, except for one, which arrived on Oct. 6. It belonged to Simrri Juarez, 27, a television programmer. His wife, Hortencia, 27, had her application accepted weeks earlier.
“Wow, I’m speechless,” the Times quoted him as saying. “Since I’m the one that provides the most for this house, it’s a big relief. I’m going to be able to keep this job and not fear what I’m going to do.”