Monday, February 26, 2007

Take Action: USCIS Increases Are Excessive and Unfair

AFSC's long and direct experience with immigrants and immigrant rights activists across the nation grounds our work and informs our strong opposition to proposed fee increases by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS). The proposed increases are excessive and will create yet another obstacle for individuals seeking to adjust their immigration status. The proposed fee increases will place too heavy a burden on the backs of immigrants, many of whom cannot shoulder the excessive costs and will be forced to postpone their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens or remain separated from their families.

Members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law questioned USCIS Director Emilio T. Gonzalez last week about the usage of excessive proposed immigration fee increases in an oversight hearing. The opening remarks of Subcommittee Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) said that Congress "must begin to explore the best means by which CIS ought to be funded."

Representative Lofgren highlighted that in the past, Congress appropriated funds to CIS; however, the Administration has requested a dramatic reduction in directly appropriated funds. "In place of those funds, CIS has proposed a significant raise in its fees - by an average of 96%," she stated. Immigration and Nationality Act Section 128A permits, but does not require, USCIS to fund its operations through use fees. While CIS promised a 20% reduction in processing times, Representative Lofgren questioned whether the return was sufficient.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. criticized the increase. "It is inequitable to tax future citizens for the failures of the agency to appropriately use funds from previous fee increases to solve the problems from the past," he said in an opening statement to the Subcommittee. "Citizenship is priceless. We shouldn't be taxing it, especially at the rates proposed by the Administration's latest proposal," Representative Conyer said.

The proposed increases contradict statements by President Bush in the State of the Union address indicating that the Administration wants to help immigrants become U.S. citizens. For example, the current fee to apply for permanent residency is $325; CIS proposes to raise this fee to $905 (a 178% increase). The fee for naturalization ("citizenship") applications would increase from $330 to $595 (an 80% increase). These exorbitant fees would create undue economic hardship for many applicants and their family members.

In a letter to USCIS Director Emilio T. Gonzalez, AFSC General Secretary Mary Ellen McNish urged the USCIS to work with Congress to create an alternative and permanent funding stream that will support USCIS operations. AFSC also calls on Congressional leaders to fund immigration services and policies that benefit families rather than spend millions of dollars to underwrite policies centered on arrests, detention, and deportation, which cause untold hardships for families and communities.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: We invite AFSC supporters to take action today by contacting USCIS and letting them know that the proposed increases are excessive and unfair. Encourage USCIS to work with Congressional leaders to identify an alternative and permanent funding stream that supports USCIS operations.

When submitting comments include the DHS Docket No. USCIS-2006-0044. Written comments must be submitted by April 2, 2007.

1. Mail: Director, Regulatory Management Division, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20529.
2. Telephone: (202) 272-8377
3. Website:
3. E-mail: and include "DHS Docket No. USCIS-2006-0044" in the subject line of the message
4. Fax: (866) 466-5370