Dreamers In Limbo As COVID Pandemic Slows Down DACA Program's Process

Tuesday, September 7th 2021, 4:42 pm
By: Ashley Holden

The pandemic has stalled a lot of things in the U.S. including the immigration system.

Some DACA recipients have been left in limbo for months, hoping their renewal paperwork gets processed.

That was the case for one of our fellow Griffin Communications employees.

Mauricio Rodriguez came to the United States from Mexico with his parents when he was 2.

"Guadalajara, Jalisco, is where we're from," said Rodriguez.

Throughout his childhood, Rodriguez said he was aware of his status, but he really saw the impact as he became an adult.

"I’m just a little more conscious about it because it does impact my day-to-day," said Rodriguez.

The news photographer was a part of the first generation of Dreamers, with the DACA program taking effect just before he was able to get a driver's license.

"It allows me to work and allows me to have a driver's license," said Rodriguez.

He's applied for renewal every two years, which costs $500 each time. In the past, Rodriguez said its taken months, but never as long as it did in 2021. 

"It's really nerve-racking, you know, because you can’t keep people waiting forever in a professional setting," said Rodriguez.

Despite getting his application in during the spring, Rodriguez was left waiting for approval and was unable to work for about a month.

"At some point, we were looking at somewhere between six to eight months, which is really tough, because immigration recommends you submit your application five months before your card expires," said immigration attorney Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez, once a DACA recipient himself, said the pandemic slowed things down, but the processing time can also be impacted by other situations.

So even if everything is submitted in time, Dreamers could be left in limbo for months.

"It was a big sigh of relief, for sure," said Rodriguez.

Thankfully, he was able to get approved and return to work with help from local representatives.

Rodriguez and Hernandez both hope one day there will be a pathway to citizenship created for Dreamers.

"I do think we are moving in the right direction," said Hernandez. "I still think immigration reform is still going to take a little while."

"If they were to offer that pathway to citizenship, I think that would be huge," said Rodriguez.

For now, Hernandez is encouraging people that need help to reaching out to United We Dream for resources.

He also recommends getting your application in at least around the time immigration recommends, if not before.