Pushing Back: USCIS Proposed Fee Hikes

On November 14, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposal to dramatically raise the costs of filing fees. The proposed fee schedule raises unfair and prohibitive financial barriers for individuals applying for U.S. Citizenship, DACA renewal, adjustment of status, and asylum. On top of these fees, USCIS is also planning to eliminate much-needed fee waivers for low income applicants and transfer over $110 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for enforcement purposes. If implemented, this sweeping set of measures would put the American Dream out of reach for many hard-working and financially vulnerable families. MAF is speaking out against this outright assault on low income immigrants and advocating for a more equitable and just system for all.

USCIS is proposing to raise the filing fees for critical benefits that help millions of immigrants establish a path to becoming contributing members of our communities.

In their proposed rule, USCIS is nearly doubling the cost of filing fees for those applying for Green Cards and U.S Citizenship. In addition to this, they are also proposing a new additional fee of $270 for DACA renewals and an unprecedented new asylum fee — making the U.S. the fourth country in the world to charge an application fee for those fleeing their home countries as asylees.

For more than a decade, MAF has witnessed first hand the impact that immigration benefits have on our clients.

In 2017, we helped over 7,600 DACA recipients renew their status following the Trump Administration’s attempt to put an end to the program, threatening to remove protection from deportation and work authorization for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. When we checked back in with those folks a year later, they shared with us how much the DACA program had affected their lives. In fact, over 50 percent said that DACA has enabled them to pursue more educational and professional opportunities. But the DACA program doesn’t only affect recipients directly, it’s also led to a multiplier effect — over 60 percent of respondents also shared that DACA enabled them to better support their families. 

The new USCIS fee proposal jeopardizes the success of an entire generation. The protections and opportunities provided under the DACA program make it possible for young immigrants to invest in themselves, support their families, and build a stronger future. Implementing higher financial barriers to accessing benefits hurts recipients, their families, and whole communities, that rely on the hard work and investments these individuals are making to our society. 

Immigration benefits, like DACA and U.S. Citizenship offers singular opportunities for people to strengthen their financial security. As documented by the Center for American Progress and Urban Institute, receiving either DACA or becoming a U.S. Citizens are associated with significant gains in household income. On top of the economic gains, we have also heard first hand how legal status helps people gain greater agency, power to advocate for themselves and others, and control over their lives. We have heard comments like this from Karla, for example, a former client and MAF staff member whose life was transformed after becoming a U.S. Citizen. 

We are raising our voice.

If we imagine a world where financial barriers stop people from accessing these critical immigration benefits, we will see classrooms with empty seats, local businesses struggling to fill vacancies, and a country deprived of the rich and vibrant contributions of community members at their best. On a personal level, prohibitive financial barriers would deprive many of opportunities to build financial stability, security, and well-being. 

MAF submitted a public comment letter to USCIS in response to their egregiously unjust proposal in efforts to call attention to the significant and unjust effects it would have on the communities we work with. Read the full letter here.

We should be putting all of our efforts into maximizing the opportunity for all to thrive in our country, regardless of their financial status.

In our day-to-day work, we witness the resilience and resourcefulness immigrants in America display in overcoming barriers. Like many others incredible organizations in our field, MAF wants to ensure that the promise of our country is available to everyone regardless of their origins or financial status. With the well-being of our communities and the success of our nation in mind, we urge USCIS to withdraw its proposed fee increases for crucial immigration benefits.

At MAF, we’re turning our pain and frustration into action.

We’re expanding our Immigration Loan program and committing a $2.5 million revolving loan fund to help eligible immigrants to apply for immigration benefits. 

You can join us! 

  • Share information with your family, friends, and community about MAF’s Immigration Loans — zero interest, credit-building loans to help finance six different USCIS filing fees. 
  • If you know any community-based organizations that would be interested in hosting us to share more information about the program, you can reach out to us directly at programs@missionassetfund.org
  • You can also donate to support this work by contributing to our Future Citizens campaign. You’ll be contributing to our $2.5 million fund that provides zero interest loans to over the cost of USCIS application fees. 

Be a part of a movement that believes in the ability and potential of everyone, no matter where they come from or how much money they have.

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