More than 64,000 illegal immigrant Dreamers have applied to renew their status under the Obama-era DACA program since a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to restart the program, the government said in new numbers released Tuesday.
About half of them have already been approved, with the others pending, according to the data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
All told, nearly 694,000 people were being protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as of last week.
The numbers suggest significant interest in the program, which President Trump tried to cancel last year, announcing a six-month phaseout he hoped would pressure Congress to come up with a more permanent solution for the Dreamers.
But a federal judge in California, followed by another judge in New York, ruled the phaseout illegal, saying Homeland Security cut too many corners. Both judges ordered Mr. Trump to restart the program by allowing those who had been protected before to apply for renewals — though no first-time applications are allowed.
Immigrant-rights groups had grappled with how to approach the renewal process, with many Dreamers wary of engaging with the Trump administration at this point.
“There’s a lack of trust,” said one activist who’d helped run sign-up clinics.
She and other organizers, though, said they are encouraging migrants to sign up if they qualify for renewal, saying the government already had their information, so turning it over again wouldn’t put them in any more jeopardy, and the benefits of DACA are valuable.
DACA grants a two-year amnesty from deportation and allows Dreamers to get work permits, which then allow them to get Social Security cards, apply for driver’s licenses and access some taxpayer benefits.
President Obama announced the DACA program in 2012, and since then nearly 815,000 people have been approved. Of those, some have found other more permanent legal status, while others have left the country or dropped out of the program, and several thousand were kicked out for criminal behavior — leaving 694,000 people covered as of March 31.
The chaos of the phaseout and the judges’ subsequent restart has complicated matters, and left Dreamers scrambling.
Some 2,200 Dreamers are slated to have their DACA status expire this month. Of those, 1,020 have renewal applications pending. For May, 7,010 people could lose status — and 2,680 have applied for renewal.
Those who have renewal applications pending are safe from deportation even if they haven’t been officially reapproved, the government says.
“In a lot of ways, it’s back to the usual. We’re back to providing the services. Folks are slowly but surely realizing they’re once again eligible to renew,” an activist in the Washington area said.
Organizations are also offering financial help to Dreamers struggling to afford the nearly $500 fee for filing a renewal.
The Trump administration has signaled it won’t cancel current DACA permits, but wants to stop issuing renewals, which would put a firm end on the program.
The courts in California and New York are standing in the way. Both of those rulings have been appealed to circuit courts.
The Senate had tried earlier this year to come up with a more permanent solution but Mr. Trump’s suggested deal — full citizenship rights for as many as 1.8 million illegal immigrants, far beyond the DACA population, in exchange for a border wall, added enforcement and limits to chain migration — was too much for congressional Democrats to stomach.
Mr. Trump this week said he’s pulling his DACA offer off the table, and urged voters to blame Democrats for the stalemate.