• About 800,000 people have received protection from deportation under DACA, out of about 1.8 million people who were brought to the US as children.
  • While the program is in jeopardy, so-called Dreamers are still required to renew their status every two years, at a cost of $495.
  • Maria Kutnick, a pro bono immigration attorney, told Business Insider that "because of COVID-19 and social distancing, we're no longer able to represent these clients in person."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

Undocumented immigrants, brought to the United States as children, are facing the same shelter-in-place requirements as millions of other Americans, with thousands working to save lives during a global pandemic.

The Trump administration is refusing to extend deadlines for renewal applications and declining to waive the nearly $500 renewal fee that some 800,000 "Dreamers" need to complete to remain in the US.

"It's been really challenging," Maria Kutnick, pro bono counsel at the law firm Winston & Strawn, told Business Insider.

Kutnick used to hold free legal clinics to help people eligible for relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program people brought to the United States before the age of 16 and who meet certain other criteria, such as having enrolled in college and having a past free of serious criminal convictions.

"That has come to a halt because of COVID-19 and social distancing," she said. "We're no longer able to represent these clients in person."

Back on September 5, 2017, the Trump administrating announced it was ending the DACA program altogether. But litigation has prevented that order from going into effect, with the Supreme Court expected to issue a final ruling on the matter early this summer.

In the meantime, many DACA recipients, in limbo but required to renew their status every two years, have a costly deadline coming up: $495 to stave off the threat of being removed from the US during a global pandemic.

Dreamers can't do it in person; offices for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are now closed. That does not mean they can do everything remotely, however.

Amid orders to stay at home imposed in most major metropolitan areas, applicants unable to meet with their counsel must do everything by mail.

"They did say that they would allow for electronically produced original signatures," Kutnick explained, "but not actual electronic signatures." That means "you still have to have a wet signature that you then can scan, print, [and] mail."

Mass layoffs, with a looming recession, only make it more difficult for those living paycheck to paycheck to come up with the cash for the filing fee.

One group of Dreamers with steady if nonetheless precarious employment right now are those who work in health care about 27,000 DACA recipients , according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Politicians, like former Vice President Joe Biden, have highlighted their contribution to argue for extending the DACA program.

What Kutnick's DACA clients need right now, though, is not just long-term certainty, she said, but short-term relief: extended deadlines, electronic filings, and waived fees. In the meantime, like millions of other Americans, she and her clients will be doing as much as they can, online.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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