More than 100 House Democrats are urging DHS to automatically renew DACA recipients’ work permits

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus leads a group over 100 House Democrats who are calling on top Department of Homeland Security officials to automatically renew work authorization for thousands of immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs, citing U.S. immigration office closures, legal service disruptions, and loss of income due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Continued employment authorization will ensure that breadwinners can support their families during this pandemic,” they tell Homeland Security leaders, “afford critically needed medical care, and support our nation in its economic recovery.”

“Immigrants … face significant obstacles in preparing their renewal requests, particularly in light of the closure of the non-profit legal organizations and law firms,” the legislators write. “Immigrants or those with family members impacted by COVID-19 may also not have an opportunity to apply for renewal because of the need to prioritize health care and recovery; or the ability to physically prepare a request due to ill health.”

Legislators highlight “the worsening economic situation driven by COVID-19” that may make saving money for renewal costs next to impossible for some. In the case of DACA recipients, renewal fees are $495—and that doesn’t even include attorney fees if the applicant needed to get legal advice during the paperwork process for any reason. Fees can be similar for TPS recipients, which again doesn’t include attorney fees if legal help was needed.

Demands urging the automatic renewal of protections during this public health crisis have in fact exploded over the past few days. In their recent call to the administration, nearly 40 Democratic senators cited a number of DACA recipients who are serving on the medical frontlines of the pandemic, like paramedics Jesus Contreras and Aldo Martinez, who are putting their lives on the line as they have the cloud of deportation hanging over their heads.

One of those senators, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, wrote in a USA Today editorial that DACA recipients who are crossing state lines and working 12-hour shifts to help save lives “are being asked to serve our nation while living with the crippling fear of being forcibly deported to a country they barely remember,” and that “For our federal government to suddenly begin deporting thousands of EMTs, doctors, nurses and hospital staff at this moment would be catastrophic.”

“Now is the time to shore up America’s fight against this pandemic, to save lives, and to do everything possible to keep struggling families afloat in this unprecedented economic downturn,” he continued in his piece. “That means embracing the courage, sacrifice and ingenuity of America’s Dreamers, who want only to continue serving their communities and contributing to this country during a historic crisis.”

That means doing everything necessary to keep current protections in place as we ultimately fight for permanent protections that can’t be revoked at the whim of an administration. “Extending work authorization to immigrants,” the over 100 House Democrats said, “including DACA recipients and TPS holders, not only benefits immigrant youth, but our communities, and the nation’s continued economic recovery.”

*story by The Daily Kos