Obama, Gutierrez, Schakowsky Bill Would Send Immigration Fee Hikes Back To Drawing Board
U.S. Senator Barack Obama, U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky were today joined by immigration advocates to announce the introduction of the Citizenship Promotion Act. This legislation would send the drastic fee immigration application fee increases recently proposed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) back to the drawing board.
"Setting sky high immigration application fees could deter immigrants from following a legal path citizenship, sending those that played by the rules into the shadows." said Senator Obama. "This legislation sends the fee hikes back to the drawing board, providing new sources of funding for the application process and allowing immigrants to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Wealth should not be the test to determine whether or not an immigrant can become an American citizen."
"The proposed fee hikes are a glaring example of the government imposing a higher price on its customers, while continuing to offer inadequate service," said U.S. Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force. "Our bill would fix this in a way that makes sense for prospective citizens and for the agency. It would ensure that hard working, deserving people get their shot at the American Dream, while helping to make certain that USCIS has the funds to operate in an efficient and effective manner."
The USCIS has announced it will increase the fees that legal immigrants pay for each application for services by an average of 66 percent. The proposed fee that immigrants would now pay for naturalization would rise to $595 per person. That fee has already increased from $95 in 1998 to $310 in 2002 to $330 today. For a family of four, working hard and legally pursuing the dream of becoming an American together, the new fees could put basic immigration services and the dream of citizenship out of reach.
"The Citizenship Promotion Act will remove the financial barriers that prohibit immigrants from becoming citizens of the United States," said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. "Instead of making it more expensive and more difficult to become a citizen, we should create a fairer system that provides immigrants with an affordable and reasonable path to citizenship. Under the current proposal, the USCIS would discourage immigrants from becoming full and active participants in our society."
The Citizenship Promotion Act would call on Congress to appropriate funds to the USCIS for the immigration application process so that immigrants are not forced to bear the entire cost of their application. Some services performed during the immigration process, like background checks, benefit all Americans. The legislation also gives individual officers of the USCIS the power to determine whether immigrants have the resources to cover the costs of their application. It will expedite the application process by supporting community based efforts to educate immigrants about the legal citizenship process, making electronic filing voluntary, and requesting a Government Accountability Office investigation into delays into the background check process.
Senators Menendez, Bingaman and Salazar, as well as Representatives Honda, Abercrombie, Solis, Pastor and Grijalva, joined as original cosponsors of the legislation.
The National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the National Immigration Forum, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Asian American Justice Center, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Legal Momentum, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition have all endorsed the Citizenship Promotion Act.