US CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES FEE INCREASES TARGET LOW INCOME IMMIGRANTS

COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED

Fee changes proposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, will significantly increase filing fees for various immigration benefits, including Naturalization, Lawful Permanent Residency, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and Employment Authorization. The agency has proposed, for the first time, to charge a fee to apply for asylum.

It also plans to transfer $207.6 million in applications fees from USCIS to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) The proposed changes were published Nov. 14, 2019, with a public comment period through Feb. 10, 2020.

Click here to submit a comment.

Key parts of the proposed rule that would affect low-income and minority communities include:

Immigration Benefit Current Fee Proposed Fee Percent Increase
Adjustment of Status (Green Card) One- Step Filing (Forms I-485, I-765, I-131) (new rule un-bundles forms) $1,225 $2,195 79%
Affirmative Asylum (Form I-589) $0 $50 N/A
DACA Renewal (Form I-821D) $0 $275 N/A
Employment Authorization (work permit) (Form I-765) $410 $490 20%
Naturalization (Form N-400) $640 $1,170 83%
Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) $535 $555 4%
Petition for Family Member of U Nonimmigrant (I-929) $230 $1515 559%
Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90) (Form also used to renew green card) $455 $415 -9%

IMPACT OF PROPOSED CHANGES ON OUR COMMUNITY

  • The fee changes would harm state and local economies and workforces. The large increase in fees could limit immigrants’ access to documentation they need to work, drive, and to prove lawful presence in the United States. This could lead to loss of employment and a significant decrease in state revenue from income and consumer taxes, as well as fees for state-provided services such as driver’s licenses.
  • Low-income residents would be disproportionately harmed by USCIS fee changes. The proposals would assess a fee for the life-saving protection of asylum, and significantly increase fees for DACA renewals, a green card and naturalization. Workers earning minimum wage, for example, will be less able to renew status or advance in the immigration process. This will hinder immigrants’ ability to fully integrate, even as state and local governments promote integration.
  • The excessive increase of naturalization fees will deny long-time residents, who are deeply rooted in communities across the country, the chance to become citizens, limiting their participation in civic and democratic processes including voting and jury service.
  • The new fee policy punishes immigrants for USCIS mismanagement of its resources. It would take funds from immigrants’ pockets and give them to ICE, which unfairly targets members of their community at courthouses and workplaces for deportation.
  • These changes will require additional local resources to combat notario fraud and other types of consumer fraud against immigrants. Low-income and newly arrived immigrants will be more likely to turn to dishonest providers who charge fees for incompetent advice in immigration cases. Residents of underserved, rural communities are especially susceptible to such harmful practices.
  • The proposed fee changes are yet another attack on minority communities by the administration. Higher fees, the elimination of many opportunities for fee waivers and fee exemptions, as well as the new public charge rule, exclude minorities from the immigration process. Many of the most-affected people come from African, Caribbean, Central American and Muslim-majority countries. Many arrive with limited resources and in search of asylum and other protections, as well as employment and educational opportunities.

Asylum in Guatemala? Really?

The United States and Guatemala have entered into an agreement, the US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA), that denies people from El Salvador and Honduras the right to apply for asylum in the US. Instead these asylum seekers are being sent to Guatemala to apply for asylum. I can’t believe I’m writing this but it’s true. Asylum in Guatemala? Really? There are thousands of people fleeing Guatemala and seeking asylum in the US now and as of November 2019 there were 230,306 pending Guatemalan cases in US immigration courts, most of them seeking asylum.[1] KIAC alone has 55 open asylum cases from Guatemala.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in Guatemala the Guatemalan asylum office has only four officers and as of late 2019 it had not resolved a single case that year. “While Guatemala is signatory of international refugee conventions and created its own asylum system in 2001, it receives so few applications that the commission that adjudicates cases rarely meets, according to international experts who note the pressing nature of other national priorities such as combating poverty, unemployment, insecurity, organized crime, gang violence, and corruption.”[2]

Salvadorians and Hondurans seeking asylum, who present themselves or are caught at the US border will be screened to see if they have a credible fear of being sent to Guatemala. They are not entitled to representation in this interview. If they can establish that they are more likely than not to be persecuted or tortured in Guatemala they will not be sent to Guatemala. Most of the people this applies to traveled quickly through Guatemala because their goal was to reach safety in the US. It is improbable that they will be able to establish that they are more likely than not to be persecuted or tortured in Guatemala. So off they will go to a country that is not equipped to evaluate or adjudicate their asylum claim and that is itself one of the most dangerous countries in Central America. We need to speak out against this inhumane practice. Please contact your Congressperson and Senator and ask them to work to end the agreement.


[1] Immigration Court Backlog Tool – Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/ last visited 01/12/2020

[2] Guatemala’s “embryonic” asylum system lacks capacity to serve as safe U.S. partner, experts say – https://www.univision.com/univision-news/immigration/guatemalas-embryonic-asylum-system-lacks-capacity-to-serve-as-safe-u-s-partner-experts-say

Speak out against the latest political attack on an independent immigration court and access to legal representation!

We ask that you consider commenting on the new rule that the Justice Department put into effect on August 26th. This rule further limits the neutrality of immigration judges and could seriously constrain the ability of accredited representatives, like all the volunteers who do legal work at KIAC, to provide representation for immigrants in our communities. Please click here to comment. There is more information on the page you will be sent to.

Thank you.

Serving our sisters and brothers in the immigrant community

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