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USCIS Effort to Price Out Low-Income Immigrants Halted By Ninth Circuit

USCIS Effort to Price Out Low-Income Immigrants Halted By Ninth Circuit

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently announced an injunction temporarily blocking the Department of Homeland Security's planned fee increases for immigration applications. The move comes amid the Trump administration's continued threat to dismantle legal immigration under the veil of the coronavirus. Due to court closures, reduced funding, and limited immigration applications, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has been in disarray with budget shortfalls. Fees were set to increase late last week but the federal court in San Francisco blocked the near doubling of application fees. In some cases, 900% fee increases were to be enforced for appeals.

The Department of Homeland Security which falls under the federal bureaucracy, the unelected administrative body that works for the executive branch announced the fee increases in late July. USCIS officials announced in late June that if additional funding wasn't met or if application fees didn't increase, nearly 13,000 USCIS employees would be furloughed until the cash strapped agency could recover. Fortunately, the Agency was able to put off furloughs, but the question still remains on whether the integrity of thoroughly reviewing each application remains a priority. Democrats on Capitol Hill have argued for additional stimulus that would cover the agency’s budget shortfalls while putting off rate increases.

United States District Judge Jeffrey S. White, issued the nationwide preliminary injunction, ruling that if the application fees were to increase during the lawsuit it would do more harm to immigrants. While immigrants who typically would be able to afford USCIS application fees could now potentially be faced with consequential decisions on the fate of their legal status. “If it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, block access to humanitarian protections and will expose populations to further danger,” Judge White, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote.

Under the proposed fee increases, applications would rise to $1,160 from $640 for citizenship, a near 80% increase. The Department of Homeland Security will also begin to charge for applications that never had fees. Under international treaties for asylum seekers, no application fees would be necessary but under the new USCIS policy, a $50 filing fee for asylum applications would be charged, targeting low-income immigrants. Fee-waivers for most applications would also be eliminated under the new rule. Fortunately, several immigration advocacy groups sued the Trump administration, in order to protect the rights of immigrants.

Unless the injunction is appealed, the fee increases will remain on hold until the court makes a final ruling. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency “is reviewing the ruling on the fee rule and has no further comment at this time,” the agency said in a statement. Fee increases of this stature are unheard of based on past precedence. If enacted, the USCIS fee increases will be the largest cumulative total in the nation's history. The government typically raises application fees every two to four years, which is essential to keep pace with rising wages and inflation. Immigration advocates have argued that the removal of fee-waivers and specifically targeting asylum seekers is anti-American and goes after low-income immigrants. By increasing fees, the government is essentially pricing out millions of immigrants from accessing the opportunities our country has to offer. Fee increases on USCIS applications are not the only charge the President's administration has put on immigrants.

Since early 2019, the president has been in legal battles targeting low-income green card applicants with the “public charge” rule which discriminates against immigrants' financial status, and in effect discourages legal immigration to the United States. The public charge places a wealth test on all immigrants who may be deemed as a public charge or may become vulnerable to government assistance as unworthy to apply for green cards. Not only is wealth a factor for those applying for permanent residence, but their education status, ability to speak English, and assets would be factored.

Nearly 97% of the operational costs of USCIS are derived from application fees, and with recent budget shortfalls, it will be up to Congress to keep the agency operating efficiently and effectively.

When immigrating to The United States, you may be faced with numerous obstacles that could prevent you from obtaining favorable outcomes in your immigration journey. At The Law Offices of James A. Welcome, we take a personable approach to all our client's needs. From your first call with our team, you can count on the integrity of our team. For decades, Attorney James A. Welcome has fiercely advocated for the rights of thousands of undocumented immigrants in and outside of court. Attorney Welcome has distinguished himself as a reputable attorney backed by thousands of pleased clients. As an undocumented immigrant, you have legal rights too. When getting in touch with our firm, you can rest assured knowing our team will actively pursue all means necessary to get you the justice you deserve. Contact our team today at (203) 753-7300.

Proposed Application Fee Changes

We’re committed to upholding your rights. The more you know, the better off you’ll be when applying for legal status.

I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card

Current Fee: $455

Proposed Fee: $415

Percent Change: -9 percent

I-130 Petition for Alien Relative

Current Fee: $535

Proposed Fee: $560

Percent Change: 5 percent

I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

Current Fee: $700

Proposed Fee: $555

Percent Change: -21 percent

I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (CBP)

Current Fee: $585

Proposed Fee: $1,400

Percent Change: 139 percent

I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (USCIS)

Current Fee: $930

Proposed Fee: $1,400

Percent Change: 51 percent

I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa

Current Fee: $585

Proposed Fee: $2,790

Percent Change: 377 percent

I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion

Current Fee: $675

Proposed Fee: $700

Percent Change: 4 percent

I–485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (children under 14 years old)

Current Fee: $750

Proposed Fee: $1,130

Percent Change: 51 percent

I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

Current Fee: $630

Proposed Fee: $960

Percent Change: 52 percent

I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

Current Fee: $595

Proposed Fee: $760

Percent Change: 28 percent

I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (NonDACA)

Current Fee: $410

Proposed Fee: $550

Percent Change: 34 percent

I–881 Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal (for individuals)

Current Fee: $285

Proposed Fee: $1,810

Percent Change: 535 percent

I–881 Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal (for families)

Current Fee: $570

Proposed Fee: $1,810

Percent Change: 218 percent

I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

percent

Current Fee: $230

Proposed Fee: $1,485

Percent Change: 545 percent

N-300 Application to File Declaration of Intention

Current Fee: $270

Proposed Fee: $1,305

Percent Change: 383 percent

N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing)

Current Fee: $640

Proposed Fee: $1,170

Percent Change: 83 percent

N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes

Current Fee: $355

Proposed Fee: $1,585

Percent Change: 346 percent

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-judge-temporarily-blocks-immigration-fee

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