In response to a court order, the federal government on Saturday suddenly announced the agency is again accepting renewal applications from young immigrants previously approved for the DACA program providing deportation protections and work permits.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted on its website that the federal agency had begun accepting renewals until "further notice." The program will be operated under the same terms as before the Trump administration rescinded the program on Sept. 5, the agency said.
Word of the announcement quickly spread on social media, and some immigration lawyers posted alerts on their Facebook pages.
"Hello my people just got the news that USCIS will be accepting DACA applications starting now. So for those of you who have had DACA and need to renew it they will be accepting it," Yasser Sanchez, a Mesa immigration lawyer posted in a live Facebook video. "So great great news for DACA that we will now be able to do DACA renewals."
The announcement comes four days after a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the Trump administration to restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program until a lawsuit challenging the administration's decision to end the program plays out in court.
U.S District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California ruled Tuesday that the program must continue and those already approved for DACA protections and work permits must be allowed to renew them before they expire.
The Department of Justice has indicated it will appeal the judge's decision, a move that could again put the program on hold.
A bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators working to find a compromise to coincide with a looming spending bill vote on Jan. 19, announced Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement on an immigration bill that addresses several issues, including border security and allowing young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and known as dreamers to permanently legalize their status.
But that agreement was cast into doubt the same day when a firestorm erupted after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump, during a meeting with lawmakers over an immigration bill, asked why the U.S. was accepting immigrants from "s--thole countries" referring reportedly to immigrants from Africa.
Trump gave Congress six months to find a way to allow dreamers approved for the DACA program to remain in the U.S. permanently. Already about 120 DACA recipients who failed to renew applications by Oct. 5 deadline are losing deportation protections and work permits daily.
That number will soar to over 1,000 a day after March 5, when the program was set to begin being phased out, with all permits expiring by the end of September 30, 2019.
"If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, you may still file your DACA request as a renewal request," the agency said on its website.
USCIS will only be accepting renewal applications from people previously approved for the DACA program. The agency will not be accepting new applications from dreamers who may have been eligible for the program, but never applied.
The cost to file a renewal application will be the same as before, $495.
The DACA program was created in 2012 by former President Barack Obama to temporarily shield from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Those accepted for the program received permits to work legally in the U.S. for two years, which could be renewed for additional 2-year periods.
Trump promised to end the program during the campaign, and in announcing it was being phased out, U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions called it an unconstitutional circumvention of Congress.
Alsup, however, ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed that in their claims that Trump's decision to end the program was "arbitrary and capricious" and based on a faulty legal premise.