Spike in fees hurts legal immigration

Aug 3, 2020 | Immigration law, News

Illegal immigration is a problem in America, an expensive one. According to The Hill, though illegal immigrants pay some $19 billion in taxes, that is dwarfed by the roughly $116 billion annual drain on the economy. And about two-thirds of that bill is absorbed by local and state taxpayers.

But the way to discourage illegal immigration is to encourage legal immigration, with the goal of eventual naturalization and citizenship.

Unfortunately, the government has taken a step backward toward achieving that goal.

After a nine-month review, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency updated and finalized its fee structure this week.

According to CNN, It increased the cost of online naturalization applications from $640 to $1,160. The naturalization fee will represent the full cost to process the application, the agency says, plus a proportional share of overhead costs, a change from previous policy.

The new fees take effect Oct. 2.

That’s a pricey jump, especially for a demographic that, being new to this country, is likely to be low income. Coming up with an extra $520 is a huge burden for those just trying to get by, especially in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.

The spike in fees could prove so onerous that people abandon the naturalization route, and join the ranks of the undocumented.

Like the rest of the country, USCIS is dealing with fiscal fallout from the coronavirus. The agency is facing a significant budget shortfall and looming furloughs. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS receives most of its funding from fee collection.

USCIS wasn’t going gangbusters before COVID-19 hit, either, losing about $4.1 million per business day before the pandemic, a spokesperson told CNN.

“These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans,” Joseph Edlow, USCIS deputy director for policy, said in a statement.

Yes, revenues and funding across the country have fallen so far thanks to the pandemic that they’re inches from the Earth’s core at this point — but raising naturalization fees will do more than hit wallets. It will derail immigrants on the path to citizenship.

If you’re losing millions a day before a pandemic hits, a funding overhaul is long overdue. But turning to those who can least afford to pay these new, increased fees will do nothing to ameliorate America’s dilemma with the undocumented.

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