DACA in the Time of COVID-19
The residual consequences of the coronavirus pandemic are far reaching. Take, for example, the closure of all US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. On March 18, USCIS temporarily suspended in-person services at field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers to slow the spread of the virus. While the decision is in the name of public health, it has left many DACA recipients scrambling as they face a delay in their renewals.
I am among the DACA recipients whose permit expires this year. Although my application is currently under review at USCIS, it is unknown when they will reopen their facilities to schedule my biometrics appointment. I have no idea what my family and I will do if there is a lapse in my work permit, or worse, if I have to face deportation. I am not the only one facing this unprecedented and uncertain situation. During this time, my fellow DACA recipients and I should be more focused with keeping ourselves and our families safe and healthy. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll even be in the country come next year.
According to their website, USCIS offices are expected to remain closed until at least May 3, with potential for an extension as the situation continues to change. This closure has only added to anxieties that DACA recipients were experiencing even before USCIS closed its offices down.
In November 2019, the Supreme Court heard a series of oral arguments regarding the current administration’s attempts to rescind the DACA program in 2017. The court’s decision on the matter was expected to be handed down by June 2020. However, that timeline was created before COVID-19 had spread worldwide. Since then, stay-at-home orders have been enacted, and our nation has gone into crisis mode. The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision, combined with closure of USCIS offices further causes unnecessary complications to valuable members of American society — some 27,000 DACA recipients are healthcare practitioners on the front lines of this crisis.
On top of the multitude of issues that the coronavirus outbreak has caused, DACA recipients must also grapple with a future in which they may be deported due to a lack of legal protection, should the Supreme Court rule against them. It would be irresponsible of the United States government to spend valuable resources and taxpayer dollars on deporting people, when many are working to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Our nation’s most vulnerable students and populations need protection, not punishment for factors that are out of their control.
Not only must the Supreme Court delay their decision until the coronavirus has subsided, but some organizations like United We Dream are calling for automatic renewals for DACA recipients whose permits expire in 2020 to avoid a lapse or deportation. The world is different from where we stood a month ago, and we cannot continue with business as usual. To let DACA recipients continue their lives as normally as possible while we weather this storm together is the least America can do for a population that contributes so much.