NEW YORK — The paperwork was mailed from New York in plenty of time.
On Sept. 14, Allison Baker, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, sent a client’s application to renew a permit that would let him stay and work in the United States legally as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — long before the Oct. 5 deadline. It was sent certified mail.
Tracking data from the United States Postal Service shows the envelope arriving in Chicago on Sept. 16 on its way to the regional processing warehouse of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the program known as DACA.
Then the packet started mysteriously circling Chicago. From Sept. 17 to 19, it was “in transit to destination.” Then its tracking whereabouts disappeared until Oct. 4. Once again, it was “on its way.”
On Oct. 6, a day too late, it was delivered. And the application, for a 24-year-old man who asked to be identified only as José because his legal status was uncertain, was rejected.
José was not alone. According to lawyers from across the New York region, in at least 33 other cases, unusually long Postal Service delays resulted in rejections of DACA applications, throwing the lives of their clients into frantic limbo.
But the immigration services agency said nothing more could be done; the decisions were final.
“According to USCIS regulations, a request is considered received by USCIS as of the actual date of receipt at the location for filing such request,” said Steve Blando, a spokesman for the agency.
He added: “USCIS is not responsible for the mail service an individual chooses, or for delays on the part of mail service providers.” Though he later added that “USCIS is committed to working with the USPS to understand and address the USPS error that occurred that delayed the mail.”
On Thursday, in a rare admission, the Postal Service took the blame. Post office spokesman David A. Partenheimer said there had been an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area.”
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