Failure to return wrong work permits has serious consequences, warns USCIS.
WASHINGTON, DC: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin visiting the homes of some beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) who were issued work permits with the wrong expiration date and have yet to return them.
In November, 2014, the Obama Administration began issuing DACA work permits which were valid for three years – an extension of one year over previous program rules, according to the USCIS.
On February 16, 2015 a federal judge placed a temporary injunction on the change, effectively ordering USCIS to go back to issuing work permits valid for the original two-years from that date forward. However USCIS continued issuing extended work permits for a short period of time as their systems were updated. It is only these, mistakenly issued three-year work permits which the agency is asking be returned in exchange for a valid, two-year work permit.
The DACA program benefits nearly 700,000 individuals and this issue only impacted just about 2,500 people. Further, most individuals who were issued work permits with the wrong expiration date have already returned their mistakenly issued work permits and just over 1,000 remain.
USCIS has threatened to invalidate DACA status entirely for individuals who do not return their mistakenly issued work permits by July 30, 2015. The agency will only visit homes of those who have not responded to agency letters and calls so far.
Home visits are expected to begin as early as Thursday, July 15 in Chicago, Los Angeles and possibly Dallas and Houston, only to some homes of the just over 1,000 individuals for whom this applies. Advocates fear confusion and panic by the visits and have begun an aggressive public education effort to help deal with the situation.
Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, issued the following statement, “It’s alarming that a mistake by USCIS could cost hundreds of immigrant youth their DACA and their work permits. The administration’s mistake could cost immigrant youth jobs, opportunities for school, and driver’s licenses.
“These are people who paid the fees, applied on time, were approved for DACA, and now, because of an error, are at risk of losing their protection from deportation. But our message to those who received their three-year work authorizations is, Return them as soon as possible to avoid losing your DACA and falling out of immigration status.”
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement: “The actions taken to retrieve the three-year work authorization documents by USCIS are in direct response to Judge Hanen’s order in the case challenging DAPA and expanded DACA. While we do not agree with the extreme measures USCIS is taking to ensure the return of these documents, we encourage the small number of DACA recipients who received the three-year work permits after February 16, 2015, to answer any letters, calls, or visit by USCIS officials so as not to lose their DACA and work authorization.”
She added: “While immigrant communities might be confused and fearful of this, USCIS’s goal is only to retrieve the three-year work permit and replace it with a two-year permit in order fully to comply with Judge Hanen’s order.”