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US rejects 1,900 immigrants because of mail problems

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has acknowledged that more than 1,900 young Caribbean and other immigrants' applications to renew temporary work permits were wrongly rejected for being late.

As the US Congress debates the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, (DACA), which is set to expire on March 5, the rejected applicants have been scrambling to overcome the government's error.

According to the New York Times, many have already lost their work permits, causing a cascade of consequences.

Mauricio Noroņa, a lawyer for the Immigrant Community Law Center in Manhattan, New York, called the 1,900-figure “astounding”.

He saw the devastating effects the mail delays had on one of his clients, whom he declined to name, saying she was afraid of repercussions from the government.

“She lost her job, lost her apartment, and is now temporarily staying with family in her home state,” Noroņa said. “More worrisome, our client is at risk of being placed in removal proceedings pending her DACA renewal, a process that may take months because USCIS didn't commit to expedite affected cases.”

A spokesman for the immigration agency, Steve Blando, said that the agency has given people 33 days to resubmit their renewal forms, but would not make the applications a priority, nor would the agency extend their current permits to cover any gaps, or even make the permit, when received, retroactive, the paper added.

“There is no expedited processing for deferred action under DACA,” he said in a statement. “These DACA requests will be processed in accordance with standard procedures. An individual's deferred action under the DACA policy begins the day USCIS approves the request and is generally valid for two years from the date of issuance.”

The delayed applications were first reported in November. Officials initially said that nothing could be done for the rejected applicants, and said the number was small. But as elected officials complained and the extent of the problem became clear, the agency reversed its position.

Some applications reportedly sat for weeks without being delivered by the postal service, others arrived on time at designated collection centres in Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona, but were not processed on time because of courier problems.

Last week, the USCIS said it sent letters to more than 1,700 individuals, and that more than 200 applicants resubmitted their renewals before the government invited them to do so.

Part of the problem, immigration activists said, was that the agency imposed a “received by” deadline, instead of relying on a postmark as it does with most other immigration-related applications.

In September, the Trump Administration announced that it planned to end the DACA on March 5 but urged Congress to find a legislative solution before then. Anyone whose permit expired before March could renew by October 5.

“The fact that that many individuals were affected shows that the deadline they imposed — which we always said was too short and too arbitrary — was too short even for the government to perform its functions properly,” said Camille Mackler, the director of legal initiatives for the New York Immigration Coalition.

According to the USCIS, 154,000 people were eligible to apply for renewal, and 132,000 applications were received on time.

However, an October 18 deposition conducted as part of a federal lawsuit in Brooklyn, New York, 4,000 DACA applications arrived late and were rejected.

The government is taking the blame for nearly half of those.


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