Brooklyn Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie has submitted comments strongly condemning the Trump administration’s proposed fee increases for immigration services at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), stating that the increases represent the administration’s latest attack on immigrant communities.
“As the New York State Senator for the 20th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, I write to express my strong opposition to the proposed increase in the naturalization application fee (Form N-400), and elimination of fee waivers for various types of citizenship forms, which would have the compound effect of greatly reducing naturalization and limiting American prosperity,” said Myrie, whose grandmother hails from Jamaica, in a letter on Thursday to Samantha Deshommes, chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, USCIS.
“These substantial increases in fees would have a significant impact on the people I represent since, according to Census data, 64,184 people in my district are eligible to become naturalized citizens,” added Myrie, whose district in Central Brooklyn predominantly comprises Caribbean immigrants. “I am alarmed at the devastating effect the proposed 83 percent increase in the naturalization fee would have on our community.”
Under this proposal, the fee to file an application for a Certificate of Citizenship for the N-600 would increase by US$530, from its current cost of $640, to US$1,170.
Application renewal fees for Deferred Action for Childhood Action (DACA) recipients would also increase from US$495 to US$765.
In addition, the proposal would eliminate fee waivers for most forms of citizenship applications, “despite the fact that one third of applicants seek fee waivers,” Myrie said.
He also said that the proposal “attacks basic humanitarian rights, as those seeking to apply for asylum would be forced to pay a fee of US$50.”
“These proposed fee hikes will have devastating effects on our immigrant communities, especially those who come from low-income households and struggle to make ends meet,” the senator wrote in his letter to Deshommes. “The administration’s proposed actions will do direct harm to immigrant communities, and are only the latest in a record of harmful and discriminatory immigration policies.
“This is a blatant attack on our immigrant community and penalizes those who come from low-income household,” he said. “Charging ever-higher fees for naturalization means limiting our potential by preventing many hundreds of thousands of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) from applying for citizenship.”
Myrie pointed to research, which, he said, has demonstrated that past naturalization fee increases have been “a significant barrier to eligible LPRs, and, as a result, the number of immigrants eligible to naturalize has grown to nearly 9 million.”
“Naturalization is important and beneficial to all Americans and to New York State in particular,” he wrote. “When legal permanent resident immigrants are afforded the opportunity to become citizens, they become more able to contribute to their communities and society as a whole. They are afforded greater economic stability through expanded professional opportunities that bring the potential to elevate their income.
“Policies that discourage qualified LPRs from seeking American citizenship are counterproductive and harmful,” Myrie declared. “Naturalized citizens’ commitment to defending and supporting our nation demonstrates their deep patriotism; and, when they become full Americans, their civic participation makes our democracy more vital.
“The process of naturalization is life changing, and it is in the public’s best interest to ensure the naturalization process is kept financially accessible for the many hundreds of thousands of qualified legal permanent residents,” he added, stating that naturalization also “helps grow our economy and results in higher tax contributions.”
Myrie said new Americans earn more, are more likely to pursue higher education, and have greater home ownership rates than noncitizens.
He said the US Congress has also recognized that rising naturalization fees hurts America’s national interests, adding that Congress “has repeatedly instructed USCIS to maintain the affordability of naturalization.”
“Thus, proposing to increase naturalization fees and eliminating fee waiver options are not only unnecessary and unjustified but also violate Congressional intent,” Myrie said. “Importantly, USCIS must withdraw its proposal to annually transfer more than US$200 million in fees paid by applicants and petitioners to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
He said US Federal law does not authorize the expenditure of immigration services fees for ICE’s work, stating that the US Congress has “repeatedly and pointedly” refused to approve proposed transfers from USCIS’s Immigration Examinations Fee Account to ICE.
“We must continue to fight for the rights of our immigrant communities and ensure those who are eligible to apply for citizenship be given fair and financially accessible ways to do so,” Myrie wrote. “In all, the Trump administration’s proposed actions will do direct and needless harm to immigrant communities and are only the latest in a record of harmful and discriminatory immigration policies.
“In view of the benefits of naturalization to all Americans, our enduring and bipartisan national policy of promoting US citizenship, and the many preferable alternative means of sustaining agency operations, it would be harmful and counterproductive for USCIS to move forward with its naturalization fee proposal,” he added. “I strongly oppose these proposed changes, and urge USCIS to rescind the proposed naturalization fee increase and ensure the availability of fee waivers.”
Under the caption, “Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” USCIS said it conducted “a comprehensive biennial fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services.”
It said the US Department of Homeland Security proposes to adjust USCIS fees by “a weighted average increase of 21 percent, add new fees for certain benefit requests, establish multiple fees for petitions for nonimmigrant workers and limit the number of beneficiaries on certain forms to ensure that USCIS has the resources it needs to provide adequate service to applicants and petitioners.
“Adjustments to the fee schedule are necessary to recover the full operating costs associated with administering the nation’s immigration benefits system, safeguarding its integrity, and efficiently and fairly adjudicating immigration benefit requests, while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our country’s values,” USCIS said.