Federal Judge Grants Leave to Amend DACA Lawsuit to Include Those Rejected by Arbitrary Deadline

November 16, 2017

– Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected], 213-375-3149
– Daniel Altschuler, Make the Road New York, [email protected], 917-494-5922
– Healy Ko, Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, 267-304-5260

Federal Judge Grants Leave to Amend DACA Lawsuit to Include Those Rejected by Arbitrary Deadline

NEW YORK — Today, attorneys and plaintiffs representing immigrant youth in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s arbitrary termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program asked a federal court in Brooklyn for relief for thousands of immigrant youth whose DACA renewal applications were improperly rejected. The court granted the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to include the approximately 4,000 DACA recipients whose renewals were rejected as a result of the government’s unworkable October 5 renewal deadline. The court also agreed to the plaintiffs’ proposed schedule to file a motion for class certification to provide nationwide relief to all DACA-eligible individuals.

The hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York today follows news reports that a number of DACA renewal applications were rejected despite arriving by the arbitrary October 5 deadline because they were delivered to lockboxes after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’s) last pickup for the day. News reports also revealed that delays in the U.S. Postal Service resulted in the late arrival of a number of renewal applications. Approximately 4,000 applications in total were improperly rejected for arriving after the cutoff, according to a USCIS official deposed on October 18 as part of the case.

On Wednesday evening, the night before the hearing, USCIS announced that it would accept renewal applications from individuals who could demonstrate that their applications arrived after the October 5 deadline due to postal service delays. USCIS said it will also invite individuals whose applications arrived by October 5, but were rejected, to reapply.

Varlene Cooper, a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY) who was wrongly denied her DACA renewal because of a postal error and has two U.S.-citizen children, said, “I’m pleased that USCIS appears willing to review my application, but I will not rest until my family and I, and all 4,000 DACA recipients whose renewals were denied because of an arbitrary deadline, get the justice we deserve.”

Batalla Vidal v. Duke, the first lawsuit filed challenging the termination of DACA, was brought by six New York dreamers—Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcon, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, Mariano Mondragon, and Carlos Vargas—and MRNY as an organization. They are represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Make the Road New York, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School.

“We are pleased that the judge allowed us to amend and that our case will move forward,” said Carlos Vargas, a DACA recipient plaintiff and member of Make the Road New York. “We will continue fighting for justice for all 800,000 DACA recipients in this case, as we also continue fighting in the streets and in Congress for a clean DREAM Act to address once and for all the crisis that Trump created.”

Last week, attorneys in the case sent a letter to the federal government bringing to light 13 members or clients of Make the Road New York whose renewal applications were rejected despite those individuals taking proper steps to comply with the government’s arbitrary deadline. The DACA status of the 13 individuals are set to expire before March 5, 2018, when the Trump administration is set to end the entire program.

“The court has put the government on notice: If the government does not adequately address the 4,000 applications unjustly rejected by USCIS, we are prepared to fight in court,” said Emily Villano, a law student intern at the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School.

Approximately 22,000 DACA-eligible immigrant youth will lose their ability to work and become vulnerable to immigration enforcement before March 5, 2018. That averages out to 122 people per day since the Trump administration announced the end of DACA on September 5, 2017, according to the Center for American Progress.

If Congress fails to enact a permanent legislative solution, the number of DACA recipients losing protections after March 5, 2018, will increase dramatically to 915 per day through March 2020, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“The court continues to recognize what we all know, which is that we need a permanent legislative solution to this problem,” said Joshua Rosenthal, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “We need Congress to pass a clean Dream Act this year, one that gives immigrant youth a sense of security and the ability to continue in their jobs, in their pursuit of education, and as contributing members of our communities—without adding any punitive measures that would harm immigrant communities.”