Why Should I Renew DACA If It's About to End?

Considerations for those who have a final opportunity to apply for DACA renewal before the Trump phaseout.

Question

I was granted DACA, after having been brought to the U.S. illegally by my parents when I was a baby. And I have a pretty good job, which I would definitely like to keep.

But now that Trump has announced that the DACA program is ending, I'm wondering: Why should I bother renewing? What if it turns out to be just a trap, to get my latest address? (Or for USCIS to get more money out of me?) And when the program is really over, won't they just cancel my work permit and try to deport me anyway?

Answer

You ask a lot of reasonable questions, and given the harsh enforcement measures implemented by the Trump administration, it is difficult to give cut-and-dried answers. (And of course, the final decision is one that must be made individually.)

But here is a rundown on what immigration advocates and lawyers have learned so far, and some useful considerations as you make your decision:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has NOT changed its policy of not referring DACA recipients or applicants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation (removal) unless the person meets certain criteria, which are set forth in a publicly available document, often called the "Notice to Appear" guidelines. Very briefly, it says that USCIS will only refer DACA applicants to ICE who pose a risk to national security or public safety, or have committed fraud. And experience has shown that it is extremely rare for USCIS to make such referrals to ICE in DACA cases.
  • Your renewal will be good for another two-year period. No matter what timelines you might be hearing about the program being phased out, once your renewal is approved, and a new work permit granted to you, that will last for as long as the date shown on your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card.
  • Even if it wanted to, as a practical matter, ICE simply doesn’t have the resources or person-power to go after everyone who has DACA or applies for a renewal.
  • Your name and information are already in the system anyway, so the risk is less to you now than it was when you first applied.
  • Having DACA for the next two years gives you a safer status than people who have no status at all, and may tide you over until the current anti-immigrant mood settles down.
  • Having a valid grant of DACA may give you added rights if Congress passes a measure granting additional benefits to current DACA recipients. (It's impossible to say what Congress will do, but such legislation has been discussed lately.)

Again, the final decision must be yours. And there are some people who should NOT apply for DACA renewal, namely those who allowed their DACA status to expire before the September 5 change in policy, and those with new, serious crimes on their record.

If you decide to apply for renewal, act quickly. Your application must be mailed and RECEIVED by the offices of USCIS (not just postmarked) by October 5, 2017.

For a full analysis, see an immigration attorney. Also look into local community resources; many nonprofits are providing free services to help with DACA renewals.

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