Federal Judge Enjoins DHS’ Illegal and Immoral Immigration Fee Increase

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. applauds U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White’s preliminary injunction blocking the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from increasing fees for people applying for family and employment-based visas, asylum and U.S. citizenship, in a case filed on behalf of CLINIC and seven other plaintiffs.

Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director, said, “The fee increase was a blatant attempt to implement a wealth test and put immigration out of reach based on how much money a person has in her pockets. This is an affront to our Catholic value of helping the poor, for when we serve them, we serve our Lord.”

Continued Gallagher: “I am proud of CLINIC staff and affiliates who worked so hard to expose the problems with this rule through the public comment process; filed as many applications as possible before the increase; and went to court to keep the administration from proceeding in this illegal act. They put our Catholic values into action, and for now we have stopped the administration from taking this additional step to reduce immigration and harm low-income immigrants and their families.”

Jeff Chenoweth, director of Capacity Building at CLINIC, filed a declaration on behalf CLINIC and its network in this case. He explained: “Religious workers, asylum-seekers and children applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status are just some of the individuals who could have lost their chance at safety and security because of cost. For now, the court maintained the status quo. We urge the administration to withdraw this rule and stop its attacks on low-income immigrants and families.”

In his order, Judge White wrote that plaintiffs met their burden to show they are “likely to succeed on their claim that Mr. McAleenan and Mr. Wolf were not lawfully serving under the HSA [Homeland Security Act],” and that the rule violates aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. He pointed out that DHS ignored congressional intent with regard to fee waivers for low-income naturalization applicants, and failed to explain why they concluded that asylum seekers, fleeing for their lives, could afford to pay a filing fee.

The Judge also questioned the government’s attempt to hide the full scope of its attacks on immigration by promulgating different regulations that impact each other. “By failing to consider the combined impact of these rules, DHS either failed to consider an important aspect of the problem and disregarded ‘inconvenient facts’ ... or DHS reached a conclusion that defies common sense,” he wrote. As advocates continue to confront a flurry of proposed regulatory changes from this administration, they should continue to highlight the impact of these proposed rules taken together.

CLINIC submitted a comment in opposition to the fee increase in 2019 in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services and Catholic Charities USA. The comment highlighted the disparate impact of the proposed rule on low-income immigrants and requested that USCIS withdraw all provisions that make immigration benefits less accessible to them.

The fee increase was set to take place on Oct. 2, 2020, but will not go forward for now, pending further action in court. Check CLINIC’s fee schedule changes page for information and updates.