Between September 5 and October 5 of this year, more than a hundred thousand Dreamers scrambled to renew their DACA applications for the last time, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Donald Trump was killing the program. It was a rushed, arbitrary, and unfair deadline that left 22,000 Dreamers out in the cold after they were unable to send in their paperwork in time.
But as the New York Times revealed this week, there’s another group of Dreamers who now face life without DACA for an even more nonsensical reason. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rejected at least 21 DACA renewal applications that were mailed on time, but due to post office errors did not reach their offices before the Oct. 5 deadline.
For example, one Dreamer sent his application in via certified mail on September 14. Between September 19 and October 4, its tracking whereabouts disappeared. It arrived October 6, one day late, and was rejected.
Another Dreamer sent her renewal in September 29, the earliest day she could come up with money. She installed two apps on her phone to track the application in the mail, but it stalled in Chicago on October 1. She called every supervisor she could find in the Chicago post office. Her application arrived “at the unit” on October 5, but was not actually delivered until October 6.
For advocates, the rejections have been infuriating because they are yet another example of how Dreamers who have done everything right have been abandoned by the Trump Administration. Even though the US Postal Service has accepted the blame, saying there had been an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area,” USCIS maintains that nothing more can be done, and that decisions are final.
That means that USCIS is content to throw away the livelihoods of almost two dozen Dreamers — that we know about — over a mailing error they had nothing to do with. As the New York Times points out, when a similar immigration deadline was offered in 2001, applications only had to be postmarked — not received — by April 30. The government recognized there would be a high volume of applications, and offered a grace period.
The Trump Administration, however, has made it clear that they’re interested in deporting as many immigrants as possible, without exception for Dreamers. They’ve already detained and tried to deport multiple Dreamers who had DACA status, and successfully deported at least one. Refusing to even reconsider these late applications, is seems, is just their latest salvo.
Advocates have condemned USCIS for its decision. As Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), said in a statement, “Because somebody else did not do their job correctly we are taking innocent young immigrants and making them deportable. That is unacceptable.”
And as Camille Mackler, the director of legal initiatives for the New York Immigration Coalition, said:
You can’t put the burden on the applicant to ensure the government agencies did their job. Can you imagine if the I.R.S. didn’t pick up their mail for two weeks and you get a penalty because of it?