Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

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The Trump Team Is Ramming Through Last Minute Immigration Rules That Will Have Serious Impacts On Migrants

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The Trump Team Is Ramming Through Last Minute Immigration Rules That Will Have Serious Impacts On Migrants

Johan ORDONEZ / Getty Images

In addition to telling his own team to have zero contact with the President-Elect’s transition team, Trump is now attempting to rush through more dangerous immigration policies.

Although most officials agree that there are few major changes the administration can achieve in two months, they admit that Trump could still wreak havoc on an incoming administration’s plans. From solidifying ‘safe third country’ agreements to finally enacting their rule against international students, there is still a lot of damage the Trump administration can impart on the migrant community.

Trump is rushing to put into place last minute changes to immigration policy.

With President-Elect Biden’s inauguration less than two months away, there is added urgency with the Trump Administration to ram through any last-minute rules that would further limit immigration.

The last minute push comes as little surprise as it’s very much inline with a years-long effort to expand policies that further limit immigrant’s rights – and also a concession that a new administration is incoming.

Like so many other immigration reforms, it’s believed that Trump’s longtime advisor Stephen Miller is behind the push. As lead immigration adviser and the architect of his hard-line immigration agenda, Miller is looking for any opportunity to tighten immigration rules and curtail the flow of migration to the United States.

Immigrant advocates have slammed Miller and the administration for their actions, arguing that the changes have betrayed the country’s posture of welcoming immigrants. 

Despite Trump’s denial, some see the last minute rush as a tacit admission that Biden won the election.

Although these last minute pushes are the same thing that happens in the twilight of every outgoing administration, this one is peculiar because Trump himself has conceded to admit he’s leaving office come January.

However, every administration wants to finish what they started and give it as much staying power as they possibly can.

It’s common for administrations to try to get pending items across the finish line before a transfer of power, but such moves have the potential of setting up more hurdles for Biden, who’s pledged to roll back Trump immigration policies, many of which have occurred through regulations that can be more arduous to reverse.

Though even immigration hawks admit that there is little that can really be accomplished within the next two months.

Some on the right who have failed Trump’s dangerous immigration policies say that there is always going to be a higher level of intensity when you’re running on borrowed time. They also admit that they have, in fact, been working with the Trump Administration on last minute changes. Chris Chmielenski, deputy director at NumbersUSA, told CNN that, “There has been constant communication between us and administration officials on what we still want done.”

“People are looking for stuff to do. People are asking, is there anything you think we could make progress on, anything you think needs to be fixed,” he said. “It’s nothing that’s going to make a difference within two months. People want to know if there are policy changes that can be made, but I think the general view is there is not a lot that can be done.”

The one area where Trump could make changes it by creating more so-called “safe third country” agreements.

Credit: Johan ORDONEZ / Getty Images

Although it’s unlikely the administration will be able to enact any major legislation, the president is attempting to further enact existing policies. One area where Trump’s team is looking to expand policy is in so-called ‘safe third country’ agreements.

The agreements — initiated last year — marked a significant shift in US asylum policy as migrants who may have legitimate claims for asylum are sent to other countries to make their cases. The U.S. already has entered into agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, but only the agreement with Guatemala was actually up and running.

And despite the region being devastated by Hurricanes Eta and Iota, they still want to see the agreements enacted.

There has also been a major push to finalize a rule that takes aim at international students, potentially limiting the length of time students and others can remain in the United States. In September, DHS proposed changes to visas for students, exchange visitors and foreign media. Since then, a “substantial amount of resources” have been put into finalizing the regulation, a DHS official told CNN, pointing out that there has been “tremendous opposition” to the rule.

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Trump Finally Gave The Green Light To Start The Transition But Many Immigration Policies Are Already Affected

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Trump Finally Gave The Green Light To Start The Transition But Many Immigration Policies Are Already Affected

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Ever since election night, President Trump has been sowing discord and disinformation while showing himself to be the big sore loser he always has been. Basically, he’s been showing his true colors.

But his actions have real consequences. As he instructs many in his administration to avoid any contact with President-Elect Biden’s transition team, he is doing damage to the peaceful transfer of power. He’s also risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans as the country continues to struggle to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, his actions are impacting the future of immigration reform.

Trump has instructed his immigration department to avoid working with the Biden transition team.

As Trump’s General Services Administrator refuses to provide the Biden transition team with much-needed funds to begin preparing for office come January 20th, his immigration department is also keeping the transition team in the dark.

According to Buzzfeed News, an official that oversees US immigration and naturalization services told employees not to communicate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team until a Trump appointee “deems the results ‘clear’” and recognizes the winner.

”It’s disturbing and disheartening that the agency is not permitting staff to aid the Biden transition team to ensure a smooth transfer,” said one USCIS employee who spoke on condition of anonymity. “These delays could hamper the new administration’s ability to hit the ground running on important issues facing the agency and our country.”

But the transition delay has also caused concern among officials in other agencies, especially those responsible for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

As president, Biden plans to undo many of Trump’s immigration reforms.

Credit: Natalie Sounders / Getty Images

President-Elect Biden has made it very clear that we will govern very differently that his predecessor. One of the areas where he’s looking to truly separate himself from Trump is on immigration.

Already, the transition team has promised to unroll Donald Trump’s legacy on immigration, but it faces an uphill battle to make good on that promise.

When it comes to DACA, the administration plans to reinstate protections DREAMers, but also to expand protections for their health care and education. A threat to the DACA program is making its way through the courts, so the Biden camp is under pressure to act quickly to make good on its promise.

For Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, Biden plans to bring that to an end as well. It is estimated that 20,000 migrants are waiting in northern Mexico in cities like Matamoros while seeking asylum in the U.S. But the exact number is not known for certain, in large part because the Department of Homeland Security has not yet shared such data with the Biden transition team.

Another big change would come in the form of revamping the country’s seasonal worker program. Biden wants to make it easier for both employers and workers to hire and find jobs while providing much-needed legal protections and fair pay to workers.

Biden has also committed to increase the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. annually to 125,000, a historic high and a dramatic increase from the historic low of 15,000 set by the Trump administration.

Biden can use executive action on many fronts but others will require congressional action.

Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Although Biden can accomplish many of these immigration reforms through executive action, he’ll need to work with Congress to achieve many others.

His platform outlines larger goals to work on with Congress, such as increasing the number of employment-based visas, providing a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country and creating a new, decentralized immigration stream for foreign workers that is based on local employers’ needs as well as a new visa option for entrepreneurs. 

These plans will be contingent on which party controls the Senate—to be decided in January by two runoff elections in Georgia—and the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spike across the country, leaving millions of workers unemployed.

Dreamers are celebrating President-Elect Biden’s plans but remain cautious.

Credit: Steve Marcus / Getty Images

While they aren’t eligible to vote, DACA recipients found ways to harness their political power ahead of the election. And it very much worked.

Over the course of the campaign, many politicans – including President-Elect Joe Biden – made serious promises to the nation’s immigrant population. And Dreamers show up, so if promises were made but progress isn’t, then DREAMers aren’t afraid to go show up in someone’s office and say, ‘Hey, I thought you were on our side.’

“Those are promises that would literally change my life,” said Mariana Castro, 26, a DACA recipient from Peru living in a mixed-status family in Florida.

So although much of the stress and weight has been lifted off immigrant communities shoulders with the results of this election, so much work remains to be done.

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