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USCIS: Tackling the DACA Backlog

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on August 11, 2021

Under the Biden administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is working to help relieve the backlog of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. The move comes due to a rising backlog that inspired the Biden administration to assign more immigration officers to review DACA applications.

How USCIS Intends to Help with Applications

USCIS indicated to Congress that it would help stage public awareness campaigns intended to educate potential DACA applicants about what to expect as they seek naturalization. This would include details about how applicants can reduce processing times, along with reminders to program beneficiaries to renew deportation deferrals and work permits.

By the end of May 2021, USCIS had managed to adjudicate a mere 1,900 out of over 62,000 new DACA applications that undocumented young adults and teens had submitted since December of the previous year. The backlog had surged by the end of June to more than 81,000 requests. Over 13,000 renewal requests had also been pending review.

In response to concerns regarding the way it’s handled applications and renewal requests, USCIS’s interim director Tracy Renaud stated that the agency was attempting to process all applications on time. However, Renaud also acknowledged that certain problems were hindering the agency’s ability to handle all applications in a timely fashion, citing certain problems. Specifically, USCIS revealed it had resolved a “technical problem” that had caused delays when validating “alien registration numbers” for applicants. The agency also detailed that fiscal challenges leading to lower staff numbers also led it to shift resources.

Making Progress for DACA Recipients and Applicants

USCIS has also increased the efficiency of processing biometric data, which first-time DACA applicants must provide in-person at USCIS offices. As of late July, over 33,000 first-time applicants were able to provide all necessary biometric data, with around 11,000 appointments made.

The agency has also begun sending many first-time applicants formal requests for evidence to help gauge eligibility. This evidence can help prove that DACA applicants have no criminal convictions on their records, arrived in the country before age 16, have resided in the country since at least 2007, and have earned a high school diploma or equivalent in the U.S., or served in a branch of the U.S. military without dishonorable discharge.

As USCIS continues to work toward processing DACA applicants and petitioners for renewal, the backlog is likely to continue decreasing as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic.