Sunday, August 9, 2020
From the Hill:
By Eric Cohen and Melissa Rodgers of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
For decades, naturalization has had bipartisan consensus, with both Democrats and Republicans promoting naturalization and paying homage to the many important contributions that naturalized citizens have made to our society, our economy, and our democracy. Naturalization has become an extremely arduous process, including extensive residency requirements, and a more thorough knowledge of U.S. history and government than most individuals born in the U.S. possess. Securing citizenship shows a deep commitment to the United States.
From its beginning, the Trump administration not only eschewed this bipartisan consensus, but it has also done its best to slow down further and complicate the naturalization process, turning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) into a de facto enforcement agency. Now, by finalizing an unprecedented rise in naturalization fees and ending a waiver program eliminating those fees for qualifying low-income immigrants, the Trump administration has instituted what amounts to the United States' first-ever wealth test for citizenship, making it next to impossible for millions of lower-income immigrants ever to become full participants in our democracy.
The Trump administration tried to justify its new Fee Rule by claiming that USCIS needed to raise fees for naturalization, work permits, green cards, and asylum applications due to an unprecedented increase in the number of new applications for these benefits. Many advocates, including the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, pointed out that the administration has relied on bad math and faulty revenue modeling to arrive at this conclusion. The administration failed to address this issue, and it has also undercut its rationale by asking for a USCIS bailout from Congress based on a COVID-related decrease in applications. The administration cannot have it both ways.