Attorney General Becerra Leads Effort Against Trump Administration’s Sweeping, Unlawful Increases to Immigration Fees

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
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Files friend-of-the-court brief calling out unprecedented attack designed to limit access to immigration and the citizenship application process

Slams Trump Administration move to — for the first time in U.S. history — impose fees on asylum applications for those fleeing violence and persecution

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of 19 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of a legal effort to immediately block the Trump Administration’s new regulation arbitrarily and dramatically increasing fees for immigration-related applications. As part of the rule, the Trump Administration — for the first time in U.S. history — will impose fees on asylum applications for those fleeing violence and persecution. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition highlights the chilling and potentially dangerous effects the arbitrary fee increases will have on immigrant families and the states, and urges the court to grant a preliminary injunction.

“Immigrants and their families are a critical part of the fabric of our nation,” said Attorney General Becerra. “They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not as expendable labor during a pandemic or as political props in the White House. With these new arbitrary fees, President Trump is telling the world that the American Dream is for sale — only accessible to the wealthy. We’re calling on the court to put an immediate halt to this latest deliberate, unlawful attack on our immigration system.”

On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a final rule dramatically increasing its fee schedule for a wide range of immigration-related applications, including citizenship and asylum. The rule raises fees for many crucial applications by as much as 30 to 546 percent. It imposes these new costs while also eliminating fee waivers that have traditionally allowed lower income immigrants to become fully integrated U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. For instance, the cost of the fee application to become a U.S. citizen has skyrocketed under the rule from $640 to $1,170, an 83 percent increase. For qualifying family members of a victim of crime who receives a U-visa, the application fee has risen astronomically from $230 to $1485, a 546 percent increase. In promulgating the rule, USCIS failed to adequately justify the changes and instead unlawfully allocated fee increases in a manner that disproportionately burdens low-income applicants. Ultimately, the rule is an unprecedented attack designed to limit access to immigration and the citizenship application process.

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that the rule:

  • Robs states and local jurisdictions of the economic and societal contributions of immigrants and ultimately threatens public health by limiting the accessibility of government-funded health insurance;
  • Frustrates state programs aimed at helping immigrants achieve financial and legal security; and
  • Undermines the rule of law and public safety by making it more difficult for immigrant workers and victims of crime to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement and labor agencies, including those that protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes, as well as government entities that work to combat wage theft, exploitation, and hazardous work conditions.

Attorney General Becerra remains committed to fighting for the rights of hard-working families, including immigrant families, in California and across the country. Last month, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief pushing back against an ongoing effort by the Trump Administration to block access to asylum. In July, he filed a lawsuit standing up against the Trump Administration’s dangerous directive on student visas, which the federal government then ditched less than a week later. In June, Attorney General Becerra, leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general, secured a landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Earlier this year, he blasted the Trump Administration for moving the goalposts on asylum eligibility and fought back against a proposal that would prevent asylum-seekers and their families from becoming self-sufficient while awaiting adjudication of their cases. In 2019, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in opposition to a rule circumventing protections for children under the Flores Settlement Agreement, a rule that was permanently blocked by a federal court in September of 2019.

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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