By Stephen Dinan
Some illegal immigrant “Dreamers” are demanding leniency from the government, saying they applied for renewed protections under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty, but were denied because the post office delivered their applications too late.
At least 21 cases have emerged from the Chicago area, according to Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, and activist groups in New York have reported delayed applications there as well.
“I don’t care if it was incompetence by one federal agency or the other, the DACA applicants did everything right and they are still getting rejection notices and their whole lives in this country and the hopes and dreams of their families are at stake,” said Mr. Gutierrez, a Democrat who demanded the Trump administration take steps to clean up the mess.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency handling the applications, blamed the U.S. Postal Servicefor the problems and said it was “committed to working with the USPS to understand and address the USPS error that occurred that delayed the mail.”
The agency gave no hint of relaxing its deadline, though, saying the same system worked for more than 10 million other applications last year.
“Given the volume of mail, and the variety of ways in which applicants can submit a timely request, USCIS has a long-established policy, tied to regulation, that the official ‘receipt date’ is the day that USCIS physically receives a properly filed application, petition or request,” the agency said.
Tens of thousands of Dreamers rushed to get in applications for renewal between Sept. 5 and Oct. 5 after President Trump announced a six-month phaseout of the DACA program, the legally suspect 2012 temporary amnesty that protected as many as 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation and granted them a foothold in society.
Under the phaseout, those whose applications were to expire before March 5 could apply for a renewed two-year permit — as long as their application was received by USCIS by Oct. 5.
That set off a scramble to reapply and to get the $495 filing fee.
Of the 155,000 people who were eligible to apply in the six-month window, about 133,000 filed applications on time.
Another 5,000 applications came in late, Homeland Security officials said.
It’s unclear how many of those were due to post office problems, but Mr. Gutierrez said he knows of applications sent as early as Sept. 13 — three weeks before the deadline — that were rejected for being too late.
In one case involving registered mail the post office said it delivered the package Oct. 5 but USCIS said it didn’t get it until Oct. 6, making the renewal invalid, the congressman said.
“I don’t trust this administration as far as I can throw the White House and all its occupants. They feel they have a mandate to turn documented immigrants into undocumented immigrants so they can deport more people,” Mr. Gutierrez said.
The New York Immigration Coalition and Legal Aid Society said it has filed open-records requests to try to get to the bottom of what happened.
They doubted the rejections were mistakes or hiccups. Camille Mackler, director of immigration legal policy at the coalition, said it seemed like “systematic attempt to enact this administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
They said there’s an easy solution — accept all applications that were postmarked by Oct. 5.
Mr. Gutierrez and Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado Republican, had warned USCIS about the potential problems months ago.
In a letter to Homeland Security and USCIS on Sept. 18, they said the immigration service had used postmarks to judge submission dates for other applications before, and said not respecting postmark dates “runs contrary to the federal government’s historic policy on immigration deadlines.”
They never received a response to their letter.