DACA fees increased over $100, plus delays in approvals results in negative impacts

April 5, 2024 /

Starting this April, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fees increased by over 100 dollars, which means the previous average cost of a application rose from 495 to 605 dollars. This doesn’t include the legal fees for lawyers to assist with applying, or the financial hardships dealt with when your application has yet to be approved but your expiration date passed.

Due to the federal changes to the DACA program, many first-time applicants have been unable to access their online portals to get to their applications or have not received any notice regarding documents sent in.

Online filing will be around ten dollars cheaper than mailed-in or paper filing. Applications expire every two years, requiring DACA recipients to pay the fee each time they need to re-apply.

Brenda Xicohtencatl, a DACA recipient and a University of California graduate, explained the difficulties with the multiple policy changes throughout the years with renewing her DACA status.

“I was kinda in limbo, I had my DACA for three years, and after that, I had to renew again but then there is that what if something does go wrong. Or what if they just say we’re not going to renew it anymore,” stated Xicohtencatl.

First-time applicants like Xicohtencatl’s younger sister have had their applications paused. Unfortunately, since her DACA application has been paused she does not have legal status to work or pursue school further. Xicohtencatl said that despite the setbacks her sister has a fundraiser using baked goods that helps keep her busy while she waits for any response on her application.

“I’m very proud to say I’m a DACA recipient, because of DACA I get to work and I get to have a career,” stated Xicohtencatl.

Xicohtencatl has expressed how more DACA recipients should talk about their journeys, good or bad, to help spread awareness. The United States is currently thriving off immigrant labor, and for many, this is a sign to fight harder for concrete pathways to citizenship.

Advice for young people interested in applying for DACA is to take as many opportunities as possible and sign up for as many scholarships and grants as you can. Also to reach out either in your community or online to meet others like yourself.

“There are resources out there but they are very limited- go look for them.” Xicohtencatl continued, “My sister when she went to college I told her apply to all the scholarships you can because financial aid is not something we can apply for…she applied for a scholarship and she actually got a full ride to go to school,” explained Xicohtencatl.

Lawmakers have written a letter addressed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, Ur M. Jaddou, in response to the negative impacts of the fee increases and overall changes to the approval process. California Senator Alex Padilla signed the letter in support alongside twenty-seven others in Congress. The letter also detailed possible solutions that can be implemented immediately to help give the migrant population relief.

“The DACA program has allowed more than 834,000 Dreamers an opportunity to pursue
higher education and meaningful careers while remaining in the only home they have ever
known…Delays in processing DACA renewals are adding to the instability and uncertainty that DACA recipients already face each day. Many applicants for DACA renewal report waiting well over five months for their applications to be processed this fiscal year,” said the Senators.

The letter continued to state, “To reduce these disruptions and uncertainty for DACA recipients, we urge you to make a focused effort to reduce processing times for DACA renewal applications and reduce the volume of pending cases. We also request that you amend your practices to prevent undue harm to DACA recipients, by starting an approved renewal applicant’s DACA period on the date of expiration of the previous period, rather than the current practice of starting the renewal period from the date of approval. This would prevent DACA recipients from accruing unlawful presence through no fault of their own due to processing delays. It would be consistent with USCIS’ approach to the renewal or extension of other immigration benefits.”