AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday is the deadline for those who came to the U.S. as children to renew their DACA application. It allows hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits that last two years. Since the program launched, it has benefited more than 800,000 recipients including more than 124,000 Texans.
Once the program ends in two years, employers are bracing for thousands to lose their jobs in industries like technology, medical and engineering. Meanwhile a definitive deadline concerning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients is also leading employers to question who is hired.
“Employers are saying ‘I don’t really want to hire someone that I know I have to terminate at X date,’ and then those who are already employed are just in a tough situation where they know they have an end date to their employment,” says Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney.
Thursday’s deadline impacts 154,000 DACA recipients nationwide who are eligible to renew their applications set to expire on or before March 5, 2018. So far 70 percent of those eligible have reportedly filed for an extension.
Juan Belman, 24, came to Austin from Mexico with his parents when he was 10 years old. He’s a UT graduate and says the challenge for renewing is making sure the application is 100 percent accurate, because there is no second chance to renew. Belman said it took three months for him to learn his renewal was approved and now he plans to spend the next two years advocating for DACA to become a pathway to citizenship.
“I’m hoping to use those two years to really save up and preparing myself to see what can happen if there is no new legislation that passes,” Belman says.
If the Trump administration doesn’t pass an extension the options for DACA recipients is limited in the future.
“The misconception is they can just become citizens or they can apply for a green card, but it’s very important to understand that DACA was never a pathway to citizenship, DACA was never intended to be a pathway to a green card, it’s simply the ability to defer the deportation,” Finkelman says.
Finkelman says immigrants must be in a lawful status in order to start a pathway to citizenship and DACA is not a lawful status.
During a hearing Wednesday, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) asked the Department of Homeland Security for an extension to at least Jan. 5, saying the 30 days given to DACA recipents was not adequate and coming up with $495 renewal fee can be hard for some to afford in such a short time. The Trump administration has given mixed signals on what it plans to do.