July 13, 2021

Congressman Neguse Leads Letter to Secretary Mayorkas Seeking Answers on DACA Processing Delays

Washington, DC—Today Congressman Joe Neguse, who serves as Vice Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, led a group of House Judiciary Committee members in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, seeking answers on recent processing delays in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The letter expresses concerns over unusually high processing times, requests information on the underlying causes of the backlog, including information on staffing and budgetary constraints, DACA application volume, and steps the department is taking to improve processing times. Signers on the letter include Chairman Jerry Nadler, Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, and Representatives Karen Bass, Sylvia Garcia, Veronica Escobar, Hank Johnson, Pramila Jayapal, Sheila Jackson Lee, Mondaire Jones, Hakeem Jeffries, Luis Correa, Ted Deutch, Ted Lieu, Madeleine Dean and Jamie Raskin. 

“It is crucial that employment authorization documents (EADs) for DACA recipients and others—particularly those who are seeking an EAD extension—are adjudicated in a timely manner to avoid disruption in the continuity of employment,” wrote Congressman Neguse and his colleagues. “Without work authorization, DACA recipients are left in limbo, unable to benefit from the security and stability the program is meant to provide.”

On his first days in office, President Biden signaled his support for the program in a memorandum entitled: Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). However, troubling delays in the approval process remain. According to a recent report, there have been nearly 50,000 new DACA requests received in 2021—less than 1,000 of which have been addressed. The remaining 55,000 pending DACA cases translate to months long delays for applicants, during which time they may be unable to support themselves and their families.

This letter seeks a prompt response from Secretary Mayorkas, with answers that will help Congressional members better equip the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to eliminate DACA backlogs.

Read the full text of the letter HERE and below. 

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July 13, 2021

 

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas Secretary 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

301 7th Street SW 

Washington, D.C. 20528 

 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas: 

As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we write to express our concern with current processing times for applications and petitions for immigration benefits at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and in particular, applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and ancillary benefits. In his January 20, 2021 Memorandum, Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Biden noted the importance of work authorization, which is critical to the ability of DACA recipients to “support themselves and their families, and to contribute to our economy, while they remain.”1 Despite this, processing times for first-time DACA applications, renewal requests, and employment authorization remain unusually high. 

We are concerned that the lingering impacts of the previous administration’s restrictive immigration policies, the COVID-19 pandemic, and USCIS staffing shortages are contributing to this backlog. While we acknowledge and appreciate the work that you are doing to bring processing times back to acceptable levels, it is crucial that employment authorization documents (EADs) for DACA recipients and others—particularly those who are seeking an EAD extension —are adjudicated in a timely manner to avoid disruption in the continuity of employment. Without work authorization, DACA recipients are left in limbo, unable to benefit from the security and stability the program is meant to provide. 

We respectfully request responses to the following questions by August 1, 2021: 

1. How do current adjudicator staffing levels compare to such levels before the February 2020 hiring freeze? 

2. What impact are current budgetary constraints having on the processing times of DACA and related applications? 

3. How many first-time DACA applications that were filed after the December 4, 2020, court order reinstating the DACA program are currently pending? 

4. Have all one-year grants of deferred action under DACA and one-year employment authorization documents been extended to two-years per the December 7, 2020 USCIS alert?2 If not, how many one-year grants remain outstanding? 

5. How many requests to renew DACA are currently pending beyond the 120-day processing goal? 

6. How many applicants with timely filed applications to renew DACA and extend work authorization have experienced lapses in such authorization while waiting for their cases to be adjudicated? 

7. What steps is USCIS taking to reach the 120-day processing goal for DACA renewal requests? 

We appreciate your commitment to preserving and fortifying DACA, as well as your ongoing efforts to reduce processing delays across all affected product lines. DACA recipients are valued members of our communities. It is important that we do everything we can to adjudicate their requests for deferred action and employment authorization in a timely manner. 

Sincerely,

Background

Since taking office, Congressman Neguse has advocated for passage of the American Dream and Promise Act, legislation that would permanently protect DACA recipients, TPS holders and DED beneficiaries. In 2019, Congressman Neguse passionately argued for passage of the American Dream and Promise Act on the House floor. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee and is Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. In 2019, he brought a DACA student from Colorado State University to the State of the Union as his guest. 

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