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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, October 25, 2019 



USCIS Attacks Working Class and Low-Income Immigrants by Limiting Access to Citizenship Based on Wealth

NPNA Condemns Limiting Citizenship and Other Forms of Relief  

WASHINGTON – The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and its coalition of 35 immigrant and refugee rights groups strongly condemn a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy announced today that will limit access to citizenship and other forms of relief based on wealth.

The change comes in a new waiver form that will eliminate one of the most common ways to determine waiver eligibility – whether applicants receive a means-tested benefit, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Just under half of all citizenship applicants who request a fee waiver, around 40 percent, do so by showing that they receive such a means-tested benefit.

If implemented, the policy change will make it more difficult for applicants to prove eligibility for a fee waiver, possibly deterring them from applying altogether, at a time when citizenship applications are on the rise as the Presidential election of 2020 draws closer.

“This is a ‘second wall’ barrier to citizenship that USCIS is constructing against our communities, based on the Trump administration’s hateful view of who belongs and who doesn’t,” said Angelica Salas, co-chair of NPNA and executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. “We will not be dissuaded by this attack on elderly, working-class, and low-income immigrants and instead pledge to continue working with our community members so that they naturalize and know their rights.”

USCIS made three previous attempts to make this change and received thousands of comments in opposition, leading the federal agency to give justifications that changed and even contradicted themselves. A lawsuit from advocates is expected.

“This is a direct attack on the values of opportunity, fairness, and impartiality in how USCIS adjudicates benefits,” said Diego Iñiguez-López, policy and campaigns manager for NPNA. “Instead of welcoming immigrants who are eligible to naturalize, regardless of their wealth or class, USCIS, under the leadership of Ken Cuccinelli, is seeking to reduce access and ultimately limit the voting power of millions.”

The fee waiver change comes exactly two weeks after several federal courts struck down the proposed public charge rule, which would have denied access to lawful permanent residency, or a green card, based on the use of certain public benefits, among other factors. It also comes as USCIS is reportedly considering raising the fees for immigration applications across the board. Trump is also consideringinstalling Cuccinelli as the permanent head of the Department of Homeland Security.

NPNA has long condemned these proposed changes as intentional, ‘second wall’ barriers that limit working-class immigrants’ ability to naturalize and subsequently register to vote, preventing them from exercising their full rights. Along with members and allies across 37 states, NPNA has launched public campaigns encouraging the nearly nine million immigrants who are eligible to naturalize to begin the application process now and seek help from trusted legal services providers across the country.



The National Partnership for New Americans, is a national, multiethnic, multiracial partnership of immigrants and refugee rights organizations across 37 states, who work to promote citizenship and integration among our diverse immigrant and refugee communities for the benefit of all Americans.


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