CLINIC condemns heartlessness and questions soundness of USCIS fee schedule

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced July 31 that it is charging ahead with unprecedented fee increases, expected to price people out of vital immigration benefits, including naturalization and asylum. The rule is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 2, 2020. 

“This administration’s fee schedule is yet another targeted attack on low income immigrants,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director. “This rule — a wealth test — determines who has access to security and citizenship based on how much money they have in their pocket instead of their God-given dignity and value to our communities.”  

USCIS’ initial proposal to raise fees across the board was met with deep opposition from CLINIC and other Catholic institutions, legal services organizations, state and local governments, businesses, faith-based groups and others. The final rule maintains provisions to raise the naturalization fee by 83 percent, to a total of $1,170, and eliminates fee waivers for most cases. It also includes, for the first time in U.S. history, an initial fee to seek asylum, a heartless move contrary to our character as a nation.  

USCIS is increasing its fees in the midst of a pandemic, record unemployment and recession. “In general, we know that when costs go up, application rates go down,” said CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy Jill Marie Bussey. “It defies logic that when people are struggling to meet basic needs they will be able to afford these massive increases. This is one of the reasons we question how the fee hikes would actually improve USCIS’ operations. In light of COVID-19, CLINIC and others have recently called for new analysis of USCIS’ conclusions.” 

CLINIC will continue its advocacy to protect low income immigrants. “The federal courts have rebuffed the administration time and again in its campaign to limit immigration,” said Bradley Jenkins, CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney. “Now, USCIS has decided that if it can’t limit the number of people who qualify to immigrate, it will just price them out. Once again, it falls to the judiciary to act as a check against the arbitrary actions of USCIS leadership.”