BREAKING: Judge bars DHS from implementing unlawful changes to fees for citizenship

Did you know it costs $725 to become a citizen? Today, December 9th, we celebrated a major victory in court. Our legal win brings back the ‘fee waiver’ that enables qualifying low-income folks to access citizenship for free by waiving the standard $725 fee to naturalize. The fee is a barrier for many to achieve their American Dream, and we’re proud that the fee waiver will live on. Trump keeps building barriers to prevent our communities from thriving, but one by one we will tear them down and build a society with justice for all.

Today, Judge Maxine Chesney of the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring USCIS from implementing changes that would limit access to citizenship for lawful permanent residents (green card holders). The ruling, issued from the bench, halts changes to the naturalization application process that would present significant barriers to citizenship for tens of thousands of non-wealthy applicants each year. The rule went into effect on December 2.

Judge Chesney ruled that Plaintiffs, including OneAmerica, were likely to succeed in their claim that USCIS failed to properly engage in the notice-and-comment rulemaking required by the Administrative Procedure Act and that the agency’s new rules making it much harder for low-income residents to apply for fee waivers for naturalization and other immigration benefits are invalid as a result.

STATEMENT FROM RICH STOLZ, ONEAMERICA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“Today’s decision by the Court will keep a pathway to the dream of citizenship available to everyone, including our elderly, disabled or low-income community members. As an organization that supports people in the often complex and expensive process to naturalize, we know it’s important to remove as many barriers as possible so we can all experience the benefits of citizenship, which include higher incomes, greater family stability and the right to vote. While the Trump administration is busy dividing us by scapegoating immigrants and creating as many physical, procedural and financial ‘walls’ to the American Dream as possible, we will work just as hard to tear them down for the benefit of our communities. Today is a step in the right direction – towards justice for all.”

STATEMENT FROM SEATTLE MAYOR JENNY A. DURKAN
“I am glad that the Court recognizes the urgent need to block this “pay-to-play” approach to citizenship from taking effect. Wealth is not and should never be a requirement of being an American citizen. Seattle will always fight for the promise of America, and we demand this administration be accountable to our communities and maintain the current fee waiver process.”

STATEMENT FROM JESSICA MARSDEN, COUNSEL FOR PROTECT DEMOCRACY
“Today’s ruling is an encouraging step in the right direction for the health of our democracy. Participation in democracy must not be limited to those who can afford it. All legal residents who live and work here, pay taxes, and want to be Americans—our neighbors, coworkers, and friends—should have fair and lawful access to full membership in our democratic system. This unlawful policy was intended to hurt legal immigrants who have been here for years and we commend the judge for correctly siding with the law.”

STATEMENT FROM JOHN C. YANG, ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE | AAJC PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“This rule change was about changing the complexion of future immigrants from black and brown to white, and furthering a class-based society that is discriminatory and unwelcoming. Today we stopped that from happening. The Court has forcefully rejected this policy attempt to wash away the time-tested promise on the Statue of Liberty for a country that is accepting of the promise and potential of the tired, poor, and huddled masses who yearn to breathe free in America.”
Plaintiffs are the City of Seattle and five naturalization legal service providers who serve low-income, citizenship-eligible legal permanent residents: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Central American Resource Center of California (CARECEN), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), OneAmerica, and Self-Help for the Elderly.

More information about the case is available at:
https://protectdemocracy.org/project/city-of-seattle-v-dhs/

The complaint can be found at:
https://protectdemocracy.org/resource-library/document/complaint-city-of-seattle-v-dhs/

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