Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) encourages immigrant communities to be alert but not fearful as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins home visits in Chicago and other cities to exchange three-year work authorization cards that the government erroneously issued to some recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The home visits, expected to begin on Thursday, July 16, are part of USCIS’s effort to comply with a court order in Texas v. United States, the federal lawsuit that has delayed the roll out of President Obama’s November 2014 immigration executive actions that, among other changes, would have allowed DACA recipients to obtain employment authorization documents (EADs), known as work permits, for three years rather than just two. After a Texas judge ordered an injunction on the program February 16, 2015, USCIS erroneously continued to issue DACA three-year approvals to about 2,500 individuals nationwide.
“The USCIS home visits unfortunately will add to the mounting anxiety communities feel as they await a resolution in the executive action case, but individuals should know it is critical to comply with requests to exchange their EADs, whether they receive a letter or visit at their homes,” said Vanessa Esparza-López, supervising attorney for NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project.
Individuals who received a three-year EAD before February 16, 2015, are not affected by the court ruling and are not required to return their EADs.
Who is affected:
To comply with the court order, USCIS is retracting three-year EADs for people who fall under three categories: 1) Individuals who received a DACA approval notice and an EAD card after February 16, 2015; 2) Individuals who received their DACA approval notice before February 16 but whose EAD card was issued after February 16; and 3) Individuals whose DACA was approved and EAD mailed before February 16, but whose EAD was returned to USCIS as undeliverable and re-mailed after February 16. Note that these EADs may show an approval date from before February 16, but still must be returned because they were not received until afterward.
USCIS reports that about 1,300 people nationally, including about 150 people in Chicago, have yet to return their three-year EADs.
What to know if you receive a letter or home visit from USCIS:
Upon collecting an individual’s three-year EAD card, USCIS will provide a receipt and issue a new two-year EAD. USCIS has stated that everyone should receive a replacement two-year EAD by mail within a week.
Individuals who do not comply with USCIS requests to return three-year EADs will have their DACA benefits terminated on July 31, 2015.
NIJC recommends that individuals who receive or have received letters from USCIS requesting they return their three-year EADs do so in person at their nearest USCIS office, not by mail, due to the short deadlines USCIS has set for retrieving the documents.
USCIS has assured legal service providers and immigrant advocates that immigration officers’ questions during home visits should be restricted to locating individuals with outstanding three-year EADs and retrieving those EADs. Individuals and families have a right to decline to answer any questions that go beyond these topics.
Individuals who believe they may be affected should call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. Those who would like to schedule a legal consultation with NIJC may call (312) 660-1370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.