The Government Is Treating DACA Recipients Caught in Hurricanes With an Extra Layer of Cruelty


The Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program which shielded 800,000 undocumented people brought to America as children from deportation came with a caveat. Current participants whose DACA protections were set to expire in the next six months—some 200,000 in all—could re-apply to the program for one final two-year period, so long as they did so by October 5.

Now, according to a new report from the Associated Press, the government is holding fast to that looming reapplication deadline—even for the tens of thousands of DACA recipients who are being impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

According to the AP, Florida alone has approximately 30,000 DACA participants, while Texas has upwards of 120,000.

Like most federal programs, the DACA re-application process is a complicated and time-consuming process that involves filing numerous forms, and the payment of a renewal fee of nearly $500. But for communities in and around the Texas coast and, soon, Florida, hurricane damage presents a serious threat to that process, whether in terms of physical damage to the paperwork itself, the inevitable delays caused for people who had to flee their homes, or the larger challenge of rebuilding a life after a catastrophic storm.

However, despite the unprecedented nature of the hurricanes that have—or are about to—pummel the southern United States, the AP reports that:

A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes program applications, said its field offices in Texas and Florida would expedite the replacement process for anyone who lost their previous work authorization, but it would not grant extra time beyond the Oct. 5 deadline.

In other words, DACA participants whose reapplication process has been disrupted by a horrifying, massive storm would simply be out of luck should they miss that Oct. 5 deadline. Then, not only do they risk having their lives turned upside down by the storm itself, but they will find themselves on a drastically shorter timeline for their DACA protections to shield them from the threat of deportation.

“If you had to recreate [a DACA renewal portfolio] from scratch, I don’t know if you could pull it off in less than a month,” Ruby Powers, a Houston attorney told the AP. “I think that would be quite difficult.”

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