Asian American civil rights groups are speaking out against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) decision to raise naturalization application fees.
On Friday, July 31, the USCIS finalized a rule to raise the cost of online naturalization applications from $640 to $1,160, according to CNN. There will also be a $50 fee for asylum seekers. The new fees take effect on October 2.
The USCIS also announced that it would eliminate the fee waiver for naturalization applications with very few exceptions.
Asian American civil rights groups and activists are condemning the decision. Many view it as an extension of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) blasted the USCIS’s decision to raise fees during a period of widespread unemployment.
“We know that many Americans would have been hard-pressed to cover an emergency expense of $400 before,” Marita Etcubañez, director of strategic initiatives at Advancing Justice said in a press release. “It is unconscionable for USCIS to implement drastic fee increases at a time that we are dealing with a pandemic and widespread unemployment. Furthermore, USCIS is doubling down on burdening immigrants by abolishing most fee waivers. These actions are an attack on aspiring new Americans and put citizenship further out of reach.”
Civil rights groups and activists say that the fee raises will disproportionately poor immigrants of color.
“As an organization that assists thousands of naturalization applicants each year, of whom over 60% are low income, we condemn this naturalization fee increase,” Christine Chen, project director for Advancing Justice-LA said in a press release. “This rule change will deeply hurt the low-income immigrants and vulnerable communities of color we serve at a time when those very communities are hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Groups also condemned the asylum fee, noting that very few countries
“There are only three other countries on this planet that enact an asylum fee on those who are fleeing persecution and violence,” Jose Ng, Immigrant Rights Program Manager for Chinese for Affirmative Action said in a press release. “We rebuke the racist impetus behind this policy. The Trump Administration has signaled a blatant disregard for human dignity, especially considering the plethora of hardships that asylees already have to endure in their journey for sanctuary.”
AAJC and other groups are urging eligible Americans to naturalize before October 2 if they are able. In the meantime, civil rights organizations say they will continue to fight for immigrants’ rights.
“Our organizations will continue to oppose the fee increase and the elimination of naturalization-related fee waivers,” Etcubañez said. “We will continue to work alongside immigrants’ rights advocates to ensure that citizenship remains accessible and affordable to all”
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