By Maya Rhodan
October 5, 2017

For undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children, the clock to renew paperwork to avoid deportation runs out at midnight.

The Trump Administration set an Oct. 5 deadline for current recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to renew their paperwork for another two years. So far, tens of thousands of Dreamers have not yet renewed.

The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that of the approximately 154,200 DACA recipients whose work permit and deportation deferment expired by their deadline, 106,000 had either applied or already had their request adjudicated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said officials might extend the deadline on a case-by-case basis for the fewer than 20 DACA recipients from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have not yet renewed, due to the devastation wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Some 700,000 immigrants have been shielded from deportation under the DACA program. That freedom has allowed them to get jobs, attend school, and live without fear in the country many have called home from a very young age. Without DACA in place, the burden is now on the Congress to come up with a legislative solution.

Two major bills are under consideration right now.

Backed by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the bipartisan Dream Act would give undocumented people brought to the U.S. a pathway to citizenship if they meet certain conditions. Under that bill, anyone with DACA status right now would be eligible for conditional permanent resident status, as would people with temporary protected status and undocumented immigrants, including those with final removal orders.

To qualify, a person would have to have entered the country before age 18, lived in the U.S. for four years before the Act went into effect, been admitted to college or obtained a GED/high school diploma. They would also have to have a clean criminal record and pass a medical and background check.

A competing bill called the SUCCEED Act was introduced last week by Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and James Lankford. While their bill would also grant immigrants a path to citizenship — given they meet some requirements — earning it would take longer that it would under the Dream Act (15 years instead of 13). Also, once that citizenship is granted, immigrants would not be able to use their green cards to petition for their family members to be granted permanent residency.

That provision, which appears to be supported by President Trump, addresses the issue of “chain migration,” a phrase often used by immigration hardliners to describe the way that citizens and permanent residents bring close family members to the U.S.

At a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on DACA on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said any deal for Dreamers had to include robust border security, but not necessarily a wall, boosts to interior enforcement, implementation of the e-verify system, and a provision to speed up the immigration process — possibly by addressing the backlog in the immigration court system.

“It would be a dereliction of our duty if we fail to take steps to end at least some of the illegal immigration as we know it, and kick the can down the road so that a future Congress has to address this very same problem again in another fifteen years,” Grassley said.

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