Regional elected officials, community leaders and ACRS at City Hall condemned immigration fee hikes. Photo courtesy of ACRS.

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) joined U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, El Centro de la Raza, Horn of Africa Services and the West African Community Council Monday to condemn a new proposed rule by the Trump Administration that would effectively make citizenship unaffordable and inaccessible for low-income immigrants and refugees.

The proposed rule change by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would increase the cost of the N-400 citizenship applications by 83% and eliminate fee-waivers – an option many low-income immigrants utilize. The rule would significantly raise the price to become a U.S. citizen from $725 to $1,170 – the equivalent to more than a month’s salary under the federal minimum wage.

 Additionally, the federal rule change would raise the fee for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals from $495 to $765, an increase of 54%. It would also implement a $50 fee to asylum applications, making the U.S. only the fourth country to charge a filing fee for those seeking protection from persecution. Furthermore, in addition to increased fees and eliminated fee-waivers, the proposal would transfer over $200 million that USCIS collects from application fees to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“From ripping children from their parents to locking up refugees and asylees in prisons, to cruel new standards calling immigrants ‘public charges,’ and now to drop immigration admissions to zero, Trump’s actions are shameful, destructive, and, frankly, soulless,” said Rep. Jayapal. “Now we see once again this administration’s goal is to stop all immigration to this country, to rip away any processes that actually do allow people to enter the country legally, and then to blame immigrants for all of the woes of a country that has been rigged for only the wealthiest few.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose leadership has helped Seattle become a leading welcoming city for immigrants and refugees, echoed Rep. Jayapal’s call to reject the new proposed rule and vowed to “fight another cruel effort by this president” to target the most vulnerable of immigrants and refugees.

“I stand with Congresswoman Jayapal and everyone behind me to say immigrants and refugees are welcome in Seattle. We are better because of you, our country is better,” Mayor Durkan. “Unless you are a person of Native American heritage, you or your ancestors came from somewhere else – sometimes under horrifying circumstances like the slave trade – searching for hope. And when people come searching for hope, the last thing we should do … is charge a price for admissions for hope. That is not America.”

ACRS is the largest naturalization service provider in Washington state, helping over 700 people apply for citizenship each year. Thus, ACRS sees from the frontlines the potential adverse impact on immigrant and refugee communities, especially the most vulnerable.

“This plan will hurt and harm older immigrant adults, immigrants with disabilities, and lower income immigrants, preventing or making it difficult to become a citizen,” said ACRS Executive Director Michael Byun. “This plan is part of a long line of anti-immigrant actions by this Administration that includes the Muslim ban; the reduction in the number of refugees allowed to seek safe haven in the U.S. from violence and war; the separation of our families at the borders; the threat to penalize immigrants as a public charge for accessing health, housing and other essential benefits; and the attempt to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census to instill fear into our immigrant community.”

Moreover, while most proposed rules are given a 60-day public comment period, this new proposal was given half the time and the comment period will end on December 16, 2019.  

“We need your support – and your friends, family, and colleagues – to submit comments through the federal register and to share how these rules will harm our communities and run counter to our values. Collectively, we can change the course of this plan,” said Byun.

The public can find the direct link to submit public comments and read more information on the federal proposed rule on the ACRS website at www.acrs.org/keepcitizenshipaffordable.  

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