Thursday marks the deadline for some 154,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program to renew their applications, but many have not done so.
DACA protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally from being deported and allows them to participate in work programs, but the Trump administration announced last month that the program would be phasing out.
Calls have been made to extend the renewal deadline, and President Donald Trump has called on Congress to take action on the DACA issue.
Thursday's deadline impacts DACA recipients whose status expires on or before March 5, 2018. Those whose permits expire after that date will not be able to renew.
As of Thursday morning, just over 118,000 eligible recipients had submitted requests to renew, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That means about 36,000 eligible DACA recipients hadn't yet filed to renew.
"For individuals who are still eligible to request renewal of their deferred action under DACA, but have not yet done so, I urge you to make this a priority. The renewal process is quicker than an initial request and requires minimal documentation, so take the time now to fill out and properly file your renewal request," said Acting Secretary Elaine Duke in a statement on Tuesday.
Additionally, Duke said fewer than 20 DACA recipients from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands had filed to renew, and directed her department to consider requests there on a case-by-case basis given the immense destruction and subsequent communications blackout in the islands caused by Hurricane Maria.
Several immigration advocates who spoke to NBC said Wednesday was the effective deadline, since renewal applications had to be in immigration office mailboxes by Thursday.
"Unless someone physically goes today to drop off their application in the address specified by immigration, it's unlikely the application will get there on time," said Cesar Vargas, an attorney at the New York-based Dream Action Coalition, on Thursday. He noted that some New York City DACA recipients are a more than 12-hour drive to the Chicago office that is accepting renewals.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had written to the Department of Homeland Security requesting the extension of the renewal deadline to Jan. 5, saying in various letters that people were not notified of the need to renew, that the timeframe for renewing was short and that the recent hurricanes may have prevented some people from renewing.
Immigration attorney Isabel Soto Wagner believes it is still worth it for DACA recipients to renew their applications if they have not done so in the wake of uncertainty surrounding the program.
"There is a lot of fear sometimes in the community, but it’s important to remember, yes, the government knows about your personal information, but I think it’s worth it to have those two other years of, let's say semi-protection and authorization to work in the United States," she said.
The Trump administration's announcement sparked several protests across the country as DACA recipients took to the streets criticizing the administration for going against protections put in place by former President Barack Obama.
Of the roughly 58,000 renewal requests submitted prior to Sept. 5, 57,000 are pending and 1,000 were granted, according to Homeland Security statistics. Sixty thousand more requests were submitted between Sept. 5 and Oct. 5.
Nearly 790,000 people have taken advantage of DACA since 2012, though some went on to have their status lapse or revoked, became legal permanent residents or became U.S. citizens.
As of September, statistics by the Department of Homeland Security showed that 690,000 were currently enrolled.
Asher Klein and Estefania Hernandez contributed to this report.