A group of Democratic senators, led by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, sent a letter to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services demanding an explanation on processing delays for applications related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on the day of the program’s ninth anniversary, CNN has learned.
The request for information comes after the program, which was established in 2012 – following multiple failed legislative efforts – to address a portion of the undocumented population that came to the US as children, faced a turbulent few years in the Trump administration.
“DACA processing delays have significant consequences, not just for individuals depending on the status for their livelihoods and security, but for their families and for the businesses and workplaces that employ them,” the senators wrote in the letter sent Tuesday. “As we work to build back our economy from the effects of the pandemic, reducing backlogs and processing delays for DACA cases is of the utmost importance.”
As the sole Latina in the Senate, Cortez Masto told CNN she’s concerned about the consequences that these delays could have in the long term for DACA applicants .
“Dreamers have been on the front lines of the pandemic, protecting and caring for our communities, and it’s unacceptable that they are still facing the delays and wait times caused by the previous administration,” Cortez Masto said, referring to DACA recipients as Dreamers. “While we continue to negotiate on bipartisan immigration reform, which must include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, we must make sure the DACA program is actually working so that this community has the safety and security it needs.”
It’s been a rocky few years for beneficiaries of DACA. The Trump administration tried ending the program in 2017, a move that faced immediate legal challenges and was eventually blocked by the Supreme Court last year.
Executive Director of Dream Big Nevada Astrid Silva told CNN in an interview that the delays in processing DACA applications have been difficult and she hopes US Citizenship and Immigration Services could issue an explanation or update in the new administration.
“It has created some chaos in our community, and we need to know the answers,” she said. “Right now we have to tell (applicants), ‘Hey, bud, you have to wait.’ And it’s really confusing.”
While some of the delays are attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, Silva said she’s also concerned that US Citizenship and Immigration Services is purposely delaying applications in anticipation of the decision in a Texas court case over the legality of DACA. The case before Judge Andrew Hanen, brought by Texas and a coalition of states in 2018, could mark the latest twist in years of legal back-and-forth over the Obama-era program.
“Covid has really affected USCIS processing time (but) some of the fear is that this may be due to the court case decision in Texas,” she said.
Co-signers of the letter include Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tom Carper of Delaware, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Alex Padilla of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware and Tina Smith of Minnesota.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.