Durbin Speaks with USCIS Director Jaddou Following Senator's Letter Calling on USCIS to Process DACA Renewal Applications After Reports of Delay

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today had a phone conversation with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director (USCIS), Ur M. Jaddou, about recent processing delays for renewal applications and work permits for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.  During the call, Durbin received a commitment from Director Jaddou that USCIS is improving processing for DACA recipients around the country

Today’s call comes after Durbin and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, along with 26 of their colleagues, sent a letter to USCIS about these delays.  Many applicants for DACA renewal have reported waiting well over five months for their applications to be processed this fiscal year.  USCIS median processing times doubled from fiscal year (FY) 2022 to FY 2023, and so far in FY 2024 (through February 28, 2024) are 90 percent longer than in FY 2023.

During the call and as previously laid out in the letter, Durbin again requested that USCIS amend its practices to prevent undue harm to DACA recipients, by starting an approved renewal applicant’s DACA period on the date of expiration of the previous period, rather than the current practice of starting the renewal period from the date of approval.  This would prevent DACA recipients from accruing unlawful presence through no fault of their own due to processing delays.  It would be consistent with USCIS’ approach to the renewal or extension of other immigration benefits.

“The DACA program has allowed more than 834,000 Dreamers an opportunity to pursue higher education and meaningful careers while remaining in the only home they have ever known,” said Durbin.  “Delays in processing DACA renewals are adding to the instability and uncertainty that DACA recipients already face each day—that’s why I’m urging USCIS to process these applications in a timely manner.  I’m thankful for Director Jaddou’s commitment and am hopeful we can resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

The reported median processing time of 1.9 months for renewals for FY 2024 thus far is the highest since FY 2017.  USCIS data also shows significant increases in pending application volumes (to their highest total in three years) in addition to past decreases in the quarterly rate of adjudication.  At the same time, deferred action for over 150,000 active DACA recipients will expire between March and September of this year, likely resulting in a significant number of new renewal filings.

More than 20 years ago, Durbin first introduced the Dream Act.  In 2010, Durbin sent a letter, joined by then-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), asking then-President Obama to stop the deportation of Dreamers.  Nearly 12 years ago, President Obama responded by announcing the DACA program.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have since come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country as teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and small business owners.  Last year, the Biden Administration issued a regulation fortifying and strengthening the DACA program.  Dreamers are protected from deportation for now, but due to lawsuits by extreme MAGA Republicans, their fates are in the hands of a Republican-appointed judge who has repeatedly found DACA and other programs like it unlawful.

Last September, that federal judge in Texas declared the new DACA regulation illegal.  Though the decision left in place protections for current DACA recipients while an appeal is pending, they live in fear that the next court decision will upend their lives.

The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight”—four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.  Over the years, Senate Republicans have filibustered the Dream Act at least five times.