OneAmerica, La Casa Hogar, and Asian Counseling and Referral Service Oppose Exorbitant Fee Hikes for Citizenship, DACA, and Other Forms of Status

Today, OneAmerica, as a member of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), condemns the Trump administration’s proposed fee hikes that seeks to limit access to citizenship, asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and other immigration benefits to those who are eligible. The rule, which has not gone into effect yet, was formally proposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today and is open for a public comment period until December 16th.

This announcement comes two weeks after NPNA, it’s members, and national allies stood with U.S. Representatives Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jesús García (D-Ill.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) who acted with foresight to protect access to citizenship and the legal immigration process when they introduced the New Deal for New Americans Act, a bill that would write into law the protections needed to prevent the administration’s discriminatory proposal from going into effect.

The proposed rule would increase the U.S. citizenship application fee by 83 percent, changing it from $640 to $1,170 while at the same time eliminating fee waivers entirely. It would also increase the fee for DACA renewals from $495 to $765, giving Trump a tool to prevent DREAMers from applying, if the U.S. Supreme Court allows the program to continue.

Additionally, it would add a $50 fee for certain asylum applications. If implemented, the fees would make the U.S. just the fourth country in the world to charge those seeking asylum.

“The proposed fee increase is a shameful barrier that, if implemented, will limit access to citizenship based on wealth and class and undermine our values as a welcoming and diverse nation with equal opportunity,” said Rich Stolz, OneAmerica’s Executive Director. “Instead of making it harder for low-income and working class immigrants to naturalize, we need federal leadership and legislation that invests in them, expands access, and benefits us all.”

The proposal would also take $207.6 million that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) collects from application fees and transfer it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for enforcement purposes. “Fleecing hardworking immigrants and sending the funds to an out-of-control ICE agency that is victimizing our communities and separating parents from their children only adds insult to injury,” expressed Stolz. “We encourage those who oppose this change to make comment on the federal register.”

“Citizenship is a pathway for people to pursue their goals, dreams, stability, higher paying jobs, homeownership, and much more,” explained Laura Armstrong, Executive Director of La Casa Hogar. “Those who overcome all the existing barriers to naturalization fully embrace all the rights and responsibilities of US citizenship. This proposed rule will nearly double the application fee, remove options for fee waivers, on top of the existing barriers our community, and many rural communities, already overcome on the path to naturalization. If implemented, it will severely limit who is able to apply. Depriving people and families of what they need and desire to thrive never helps anyone…it only further harms all of us. We oppose this proposed rule and are grateful to be part of a national group who will advocate against it.”

“Our deep concern is that to be a citizen is becoming more and more a dream versus a reality,” Michael Buyn, Executive Director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service lamented. “For our Asian American and Pacific Islander community, the elimination of the fee waiver and dramatically increasing the cost to apply for citizenship are consistent with other recent actions by this Administration that includes the effort to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. It creates a chilling effect with lasting harm to immigrants. They are fearful and do not feel welcome, which is inconsistent with American values.”

“As a community organization that hard working immigrants naturalize every day, we know how difficult and cost-prohibitive application fees already are,” said Sarah Sumadi, Senior Manager of OneAmerica’s naturalization program, Washington New Americans. “This is why we condemn this rule, that seeks to limit access to what people are eligible for, and recommit to working so that all of our community members are welcome here.”

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