DACA recipients urged to quickly renew temporary deportation protections

January 16, 2018

The Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic is urging "DREAMers" to act quickly to renew their applications for temporary deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, noting federal policy could again change at any time.

"It has been a tumultuous year," said Susan Shulman, executive director of the legal aid clinic. "Our job as attorneys is to act in our clients' best interests, and I feel like acting quickly is in their best interests at this point."

In early September, the Trump administration announced it was terminating the DACA program and would no longer accept new applications or renew existing permits. The program has provided some people who were brought to the U.S. as children without documentation the ability to obtain work authorization and some forms of financial assistance to attend college, Shulman said.

On Jan. 9, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the administration's plan to end the DACA program, according to press reports. As a result, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Saturday that it would resume accepting renewal applications from people previously granted the protections. No new applications would be accepted, the bureau said.

"As soon as the injunction came down, we were checking the USCIS website every day, about 10 times a day, to see when the forms would come out," said Lia Kim-Yi, director of immigration law practice at the legal aid clinic.

Shulman added, "The court decision could go up on appeal and could be changed at any time, which is why we are urging young people to come forward."

The Illinois 10th Congressional District, in which the clinic is located, has about 3,800 DACA beneficiaries, the third highest number of all congressional districts in Illinois, according to a joint study by the University of Southern California and the Center for American Progress.

The program has been open to those who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012. At the time of the DACA application, they must have been in school, a high school graduate or have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate; or have been an honorably discharged veteran.

DACA protections are temporary and expire after two years. While DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid for college, they've been able to complete the standard FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and receive scholarships and other forms of assistance, Shulman said.

"It makes a tremendous difference in the lives of these young people. It really does," Shulman said.