National Partnership for New Americans on USCIS Announcement that Agency Won’t Increase Fees
USCIS Must Keep Going, Naturalize Two Million New Citizens by 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would not go forward with a proposed regulation that would have increased the citizenship application fee from $640 to over $1,100, among other application fee increases, and would have eliminated most fee waivers for low-income and working-class immigrants to apply.
The fee increases were originally proposed by the Trump administration and resulted in several lawsuits, including by National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) members like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), CASA, OneAmerica, and close partners like the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Seattle Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. The litigation resulted in preliminary injunctions from two federal courts last year, including one on Sept. 29, days before the regulation was set to go into effect.
“The National Partnership for New Americans applauds USCIS’ announcement that it will comply with the law and not continue the previous administration’s attempts to price immigrants out of citizenship and other immigration benefits,” said Nicole Melaku, NPNA’s executive director. “We now encourage the administration to continue dismantling the multiple barriers previously placed on access to citizenship, take proactive steps to reform USCIS, and naturalize two million new citizens by 2022.”
The proposed fee increase regulation was one of multiple changes to USCIS that the Trump administration proposed and, in many cases, implemented. The vast majority of them are still in place as the new administration begins staffing the agency, and the changes have resulted in a backlog of over 942,000 applications, an extraordinary number that the agency released on Jan. 25. The Biden-Harris campaign pledged to “streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it more accessible to qualified green card holders,” which the new administration can do through executive actions and without the help of Congress. The announcement today follows the campaign pledge to reject unreasonable fees.
“Given the critical importance of citizenship and other immigration benefits, both to our members but also to the broader community, we appreciate the recognition by the Biden/Harris administration that fee hikes send the wrong message to immigrants taking the final step in joining the American family,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director, CASA.
NPNA has advocated for aggressive steps to improve access to citizenship, reduce the backlog and processing delays of citizenship and other applications. In realigning USCIS with Biden’s own standards of respect for all, the administration must change agency culture and launch a campaign with community-based organizations and other stakeholders to naturalize two million new citizens by 2022.