Trump Administration Reverses Key Immigration Decision After Postal Service Screwup

Supporters of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA) demonstrate in front of the White House on Sept. 9. Supporters of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA) demonstrate in front of the White House on Sept. 9. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The Trump administration has reversed an earlier decision and will now allow undocumented immigrants with special status more time to prolong their legal residency in the country after the U.S. Postal Service admitted its actions delayed the delivery of applications past a deadline for renewal.

The immigrants in question were applying to renew their status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by President Obama but ended by President Trump. The Trump administration had set a deadline of Oct. 5 for immigrants with DACA status to extend their legal residency by two years, but thousands of DACA recipients missed that date. The Postal Service confirmed a report by The New York Times that an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area” may have caused many of those applications to arrive late at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

USCIS initially said it was not responsible for any mail delays, and that any applications not received by the Oct. 5 deadline would not be considered. On Wednesday, however, USCIS reversed course, saying it would consider renewal for anyone who could prove their applications would have arrived on time if not for mail delays. Those without such documentation, USCIS said in its new guidance, may contact USPS and request proof. The Postal Service will provide a letter to individuals affirming their claims on a case-by-case basis “if appropriate.”

“USCIS will not accept requests that do not include individualized proof that the request was originally mailed in a timely manner to be received by the Oct. 5 deadline, and that the cause for receipt after the Oct. 5, 2017, deadline was the result of USPS mail service error,” the agency said.

The USCIS guidance will also allow immigrants with DACA status whose applications for renewal were in an agency P.O. Box by the deadline but were mistakenly rejected as being late. Vox initially reported that story earlier this week.

“USCIS will proactively reach out to those DACA requestors to inform them that they may resubmit their DACA request,” the agency said, adding that those who think they fall into this category but do not hear from USCIS may submit proof to the agency their applications had arrived on time.

The Postal Service told the The New York Times it has resolved the issue that caused the mail delay and is currently investigating why it occurred. On Thursday, Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, said the agency is still determining exactly how it will comply with USCIS’ request to assist applicants without proof of their timely applications submission.

“The U.S. Postal Service is continuing to work diligently with USCIS on this matter,” Partenheimer said. “The Postal Service will provide additional information as soon as possible.”

Trump and lawmakers from both parties have called for an agreement that would provide a longer-term solution for immigrants currently on DACA status.  

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