Amid COVID-19-crisis, CLINIC calls for Justice Department to put the brakes on rule that would price immigrants out of immigration court

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Joined by more than 100 organizations, CLINIC called on the Justice Department to freeze the rulemaking process on proposed significant fee increases, in light of the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis. The increases would apply to fees for appealing decisions and filing applications for relief in the immigration court system. In spite of the national emergency and related work disruptions from stay-at-home orders, the Justice Department has not extended the comment deadline, or even responded.

“The Justice Department is using these fee increases to price people out of justice,” said Victoria Neilson, managing attorney in CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations program. “Even as it becomes more difficult to get a fair day in immigration court, the Justice Department proposes to raise fees for appeals to $975. This rule also adds a fee for asylum applications in removal proceedings for the first time. It is shameful to force the most vulnerable to pay fees to seek safety from persecution.”

The fee increases would be the first for immigration appeals in three decades. The increases range from $30 to $865. The largest, of nearly 800 percent, would raise the cost from $110 to $975 to appeal an immigration judge’s ruling. The changes grossly exceed rates of inflation. The proposal would make the cost of an appeal in the immigration court system almost double what it is in federal court.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, CLINIC had urged the Justice Department to provide more time for public comments. The Feb. 28 notice of proposed rulemaking only gave a 30-day comment period instead of the typical 60-day period.

“Pushing this rule through in the midst of a public health crisis demonstrates that the administration’s cruelty has no bounds,” said CLINIC Advocacy Director Jill Marie Bussey. “Any and all new rules affecting immigrants and our immigration system should stop during this national emergency. Failure to do so is blatantly inhumane.”

See CLINIC’s public comment on the proposed rule.

This effort is part of CLINIC’s ongoing work to protect immigrants from additional barriers to obtaining and maintaining legal status during the coronavirus crisis. Other efforts include: