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Members Oppose Proposal to Increase Fees for Citizenship, Asylum Seekers

Washington–Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined several House and Senate colleagues in submitting comments to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services opposing the agency’s latest proposed fee rule that would dramatically hike fees for immigration benefits, including those for asylum seekers and DACA recipients, and eliminate nearly all fee waivers and exemptions.

In addition to Senator Feinstein, the comments were submitted by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), House Homeland Security Appropriations Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration Ranking Member Dick Durbin (D-IL).

As noted by the members, the proposed fee increase is based on an incomplete and flawed cost analysis, undermining Congress’ ability to conduct oversight. It would also prevent poor families and vulnerable individuals from obtaining immigration benefits, including naturalization, and would make no measurable improvement to USCIS’s historically high case backlog.

A full version of the comments can be found here.

Background:

On November 14, 2019, the Trump administration proposed to increase fees for immigration benefits by a weighted average of 21 percent and eliminate almost all fee waivers and exemptions. When viewed as a whole, this proposal appears to be a pretext to make the U.S. immigration system inaccessible to working class families. The administration seeks to impose a new fee for asylum applicants, making the United States one of only four countries, alongside Iran, Fiji, and Australia, to charge a fee for this important form of humanitarian protection.

The proposal would also raise the naturalization fee by 83 percent and eliminate reduced fee options for low income applicants. USCIS justifies the fee increase by projecting a $1.2 billion funding shortfall, but fails to explain over half of this shortfall and includes an unauthorized transfer of funds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Before DHS can implement the administration’s proposal, DHS must provide the public with a complete and accurate assessment of its budget and a reasonable justification to increase fees.

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