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USCIS Upends the Lives of Immigrants by Refusing to Print Their Work Permits and Green Cards

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The Trump administration’s full-on assault on the U.S. immigration system has continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The president has not only pursued his agenda during the outbreak—he has, in several instances, used the pandemic as a pretext to reduce the number of noncitizens who can come to the United States lawfully. Many recent policy changes,

The Trump administration’s full-on assault on the U.S. immigration system has continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The president has not only pursued his agenda during the outbreak—he has, in several instances, used the pandemic as a pretext to reduce the number of noncitizens who can come to the United States lawfully. Many recent policy changes have targeted people abroad, disqualifying them from coming to the country in the first place.

But the administration is now targeting people who are in the United States lawfully—in some cases for many years—by doing things like scaling back the printing of green cards and employment authorization documents (or work permits). These are critical documents that immigrants need to take part in many aspects of American life. Without them, people can’t work, obtain loans, or prove they are in the country lawfully.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently cut production of these documents after its contract ended with a third-party printing company. Reports indicate that 50,000 green cards and 75,000 work permits have not been printed. The agency said it planned to manage the production of these documents in-house, but that its ability to do so is limited due to budgetary constraints.

The people impacted by these printing delays have already had their petitions and applications approved by USCIS. They have paid the often-exorbitant filing fees, completed the necessary paperwork, and gone through extensive background checks. Despite this, the agency says it “cannot speculate on future projections of processing times.”

This leaves hundreds of thousands of people without the documents needed to support themselves. These documents are important in normal times—but are even more critical during a worldwide pandemic.

The administration claims that its reduction in printing capacity is due to a USCIS budget shortfall that it has blamed on a reduction in fee revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, that isn’t the whole story. While COVID-19 has had a significant impact across our immigration system, USCIS has been on a path to financial ruin for years due largely to its own fiscal mismanagement.

The agency has significantly increased its personnel costs during a period of several years when it has received far fewer applications and petitions. At the same time, it reduced its own bottom line by instituting a series of policy changes that disqualified many noncitizens from qualifying for certain benefits. This includes the public charge rule and its recent expanded ban on many forms of legal immigration.

This has all contributed to a massive $1.2 billion dollar shortfall within the agency. The delayed printing of green cards and employment authorization documents foreshadows even greater challenges in the near future.

USICS plans to furlough over 13,000 employees as of August 3 at a time when its own data confirms that the agency has a backlog of over 5.7 million pending cases. While the agency has asked Congress for emergency funding, the White House has yet to submit a formal request. It is unclear if Congress will be able to step in before the long August recess.

If USCIS moves forward with these furloughs, productivity will plummet even further. Millions of cases will be left in limbo until the agency is able to fully resume operations. This includes the applications from hundreds of thousands of Dreamers impacted by the Supreme Court’s recent DACA decision.

Congress should step in to provide enough funding to allow the agency to continue its operations. But Congress also must also exercise its constitutional oversight authority to create and boost meaningful accountability, transparency, and productivity within USCIS. Congress also has an important role to challenge the administration’s ongoing efforts to use COVID-19 as a pretext to justify many of the changes to our immigration system that it has sought for years.

Source: USCIS Upends the Lives of Immigrants by Refusing to Print Their Work Permits and Green Cards

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USCIS Averts Furlough of Nearly 70% of Workforce

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Drastic cuts will impact agency operations for foreseeable future WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the agency will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts. USCIS expects to be,

Drastic cuts will impact agency operations for foreseeable future

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the agency will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.

USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020. Aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations, including naturalizations, and will drastically impact agency contracts.

“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment. Their resilience and strength of character always serves the nation well, but in this year of uncertainty, they remain steadfast in their mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and protecting the American people, even as a furlough loomed before them,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs. A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.”

The additional cost savings come through the descoping of federal contracts that assist USCIS adjudicators in processing and preparing case files as well as a myriad of other support activities. Anticipated operational impacts include increased wait times for pending case inquiries with the USCIS Contact Center, longer case processing times, and increased adjudication time for aliens adjusting status or naturalizing. Naturalization ceremonies will continue. Previously, members of Congress requested that agency leadership avoid operational cuts of this magnitude. However, Congress must still act on a long-term solution that will provide USCIS with the necessary financial assistance to sustain the agency throughout FY 2021 and beyond.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@USCIS), Instagram (/USCIS), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

Source: USCIS Averts Furlough of Nearly 70% of Workforce

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Looming Fee Increase Could Thwart Many U.S. Citizenship Applications

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The Trump administration is planning a sharp increase in the cost of naturalization this fall. Critics say it is part of a pattern intended to discourage immigration from poor nations. A newly naturalized citizen celebrated after a drive-in ceremony in Santa Ana, Calif., last month. The Trump administration plans to raise application fees by,

The Trump administration is planning a sharp increase in the cost of naturalization this fall. Critics say it is part of a pattern intended to discourage immigration from poor nations.

A newly naturalized citizen celebrated after a drive-in ceremony in Santa Ana, Calif., last month. The Trump administration plans to raise application fees by more than 80 percent in October.Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — When Guadalupe Rubio, 41, contracted the coronavirus in July, she struggled to make the few steps to the bathroom in the mobile home that she shared with her teenage daughter in Kent, Wash.

The pandemic had already shuttered her small construction business, which also provided for her parents and three children in Sinaloa, Mexico. Now, the virus left her struggling to breathe, trapped inside without any means to support the six family members who depended on her.

Around the time the pandemic hit Washington State, Ms. Rubio became eligible to apply for United States citizenship. She made a bit too much money to qualify for a reduction in the application fee, currently $640, and the economic effects of the pandemic and her illness sapped away her savings. She applied for food stamps, a benefit that could also provide a break on the fee, but has so far been unable to reach the overwhelmed social services agency that could help her.

If she cannot save the money or obtain a fee waiver before the fall, Ms. Rubio’s prospects of becoming a citizen will become more remote. The Trump administration moved late last month to raise the cost of naturalization applications by more than 80 percent and to substantially tighten eligibility requirements for a subsidized application.

The price for naturalization will jump to $1,160 or $1,170 for online applications. The rule will also lower the income threshold to qualify for a fee waiver and eliminate the partial subsidy for the application.

Almost all other exceptions that allowed immigrants to waive the fee will be eliminated, including extenuating financial hardship and means-tested public benefits, like food stamps. Only some protected immigrants, including victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, will remain eligible.

Ms. Rubio is one of many who would no longer be eligible for a waiver. Immigration lawyers across the country are rushing to submit their clients’ applications to the already backlogged agency before the fee increases are introduced on Oct. 2.

“It’s a low blow during a pandemic,” Ms. Rubio said through a translator. “I have worked a lot for this country, and if I’m a citizen, I can — not just contribute more — but I can also better reap the benefits of all of my hard work in this country.”

Advocates for immigrants say the fee increase is intended to stymie legal immigration and deprive immigrants of their right to vote before the election in November.

“It’s the first-ever wealth test on citizenship,” said Melissa Rodgers, the director of programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco. She called the new rule “the most dramatic change we’ve ever seen to the structure of the immigration system” and its fees.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, whose budget is nearly entirely funded by its fees, has fallen into a financial crisis under the Trump administration and become even more strapped for cash as the coronavirus pandemic has sharply reduced applications for visas and other services.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, who oversees U.S.C.I.S., has said that increases are necessary to align the fees with the “true cost” of processing applications in an already overly extended system.

The agency has pleaded with Congress for a $1.2 billion emergency injection as part of a proposed coronavirus relief package that has become mired in a partisan standoff and seems unlikely to pass before next month, if it passes at all. Without the money, the agency plans to furlough nearly 70 percent of its staff on Aug. 30. If Congress appropriates the funds, U.S.C.I.S. has proposed an additional 10 percent surcharge for its services, in addition to the fee increases.

In a statement, Joseph Edlow, the agency’s deputy director for policy, said the immigration service was required by law to modify its fees based on routine analysis of its finances. These “overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans,” he said.

Immigration activists say that U.S.C.I.S.’s financial shortfalls are a result of mismanagement, including bloated staff and administrative inefficiencies that have discouraged new applicants.

Ms. Rodgers said the administration’s policies had “effectively bankrupted U.S.C.I.S.” The agency’s work force has burgeoned by 19 percent under the Trump administration, with many of those positions in fraud detection. Processes have slowed because of new interview requirements, and more applications have been rejected.

“This administration has no one to blame but themselves for driving an entire federal agency to the ground,” said Doug Rand, a former Obama administration official who worked on immigration policy. He questioned whether the new fees would solve the agency’s financial woes or simply reduce applications even further.

The Department of Homeland Security has stated that price changes would have little or no effect on the number of applicants.

Research has found otherwise. A study at Stanford University found that fee waivers granted to immigrants in New York doubled the likelihood that they would apply for naturalization. Duncan Lawrence, the executive director of the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab and an author of the study, called the new fees “a systemic wall for access to citizenship.”

Decades after she emigrated from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Maria Turrubiartes, 65, became a citizen this year, partly because she wanted to help her husband apply for permanent residency. However, the new rule will increase the fee for his application by 52 percent, to $960.

Ms. Turrubiartes, who has epilepsy, said her husband remained her primary caregiver. Between her disability checks and her husband’s salary, it will be difficult to afford the new cost, she said, speaking through a translator. While they save for the fee, Ms. Turrubiartes and her husband, a cement worker, can no longer afford to send money to his parents in Mexico.

For the time being, they will forego anything that is not a necessity. If you love someone, these are the kinds of sacrifices you have to make, she said.

President Trump in a taped speech during a citizenship ceremony in Miami last year. He has made immigration a centerpiece of his bid for re-election.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Some activists say the fee hike is part of a long-running effort by the administration to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment. President Trump promised to restrict immigration early in his campaign in 2016, and he has already made the issue a centerpiece of his bid for re-election.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a policy last year that would deny applicants for permanent residency based on their use of public benefits, including food stamps or Medicaid. A federal appeals court blocked that rule in several states this month.

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the new fees would disproportionately target immigrants from the poorest nations, such as those from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and South and Central America — largely immigrants of color.

“This administration has been slicing and dicing and finding different ways to make it hard for immigrants to be included in this country,” Ms. Hincapié said. “This is about Trump trying to restrict who is considered worthy of being an American, and time and time again, he has sent the message to immigrants, especially low-income immigrants, that if you are not from Norway, you are not wanted in our country.”

To Ms. Rubio, that message is apparent. For now, she remains at home recovering from the coronavirus, with lots of water, fruit and vitamins. Her headaches have subsided and her sense of smell has returned, but she is still without work. Ms. Rubio sighed as she described what the virus had done to her prospects of becoming a citizen. Like many others, she has no idea how she will find the money before October, when those prospects will dwindle even further.

Citizenship would change her life in many ways, Ms. Rubio said through a translator. It would enable her to save for her retirement, visit her family in Mexico for extended periods and bring her parents to the United States. She said she was hopeful that her parents would join her in Washington State some day after she became a citizen.

Among the main reasons for her desire to become a citizen, Ms. Rubio said, was that she wanted to have a say in the political process that had made obtaining her naturalization so difficult.

“First,” she said, “I’m going to vote.”

Source: Looming Fee Increase Could Thwart Many U.S. Citizenship Applications

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Update – USCIS Immigration Filing Fees to Increase – Table

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USCIS has raised its immigration filing fees effective October 2, 2020. Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after October 2, 2020, must include these new fees. Please note that USCIS will reject your submission if the fees are not correct! New USCIS’ fees effective October 2, 2020: Immigration Benefit Request Current Fee Final,

USCIS has raised its immigration filing fees effective October 2, 2020. Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after October 2, 2020, must include these new fees. Please note that USCIS will reject your submission if the fees are not correct!

New USCIS’ fees effective October 2, 2020:

Immigration Benefit Request Current Fee Final Fee Change ($) Change (%)
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (online filing) $455 $405 ($50) -11
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (paper filing) $455 $415 ($40) -9
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document $445 $485 $40 9
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker $460 N/A N/A N/A
I-129CW, I-129E&TN, and I-129MISC $460 $695 $235 51
I-129H1 $460 $555 $95 21
I-129H2A – Named Beneficiaries $460 $850 $390 85
I-129H2B – Named Beneficiaries $460 $715 $255 55
I-129L $460 $805 $345 75
I-129O $460 $705 $245 53
I-129H2A – Unnamed Beneficiaries $460 $415 ($45) -10
I-129H2B – Unnamed Beneficiaries $460 $385 ($75) -16
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) $535 $510 ($25) -5
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (online filing) $535 $550 $15 3
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (paper filing) $535 $560 $25 5
I-131 Application for Travel Document $575 $590 $15 3
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for an individual age 16 or older $135 $145 $10 7
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for a child under the age of 16 $105 $115 $10 10
I-131A Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation) $575 $1,010 $435 76
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $700 $555 ($145) -21
I-191 Application for Relief Under Former Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) $930 $790 ($140) -15
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (CBP) $585 $1,400 $815 139
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (USCIS) $930 $1,400 $470 51
I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa $585 $2,790 $2,205 377
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal $930 $1,050 $120 13
I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion $675 $700 $25 4
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant $435 $450 $15 3
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence $1,140 $1,130 ($10) -1
I-485 Application to Adjust Status $750 $1,130 $380 51
I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor $3,675 $4,010 $335 9
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (online filing) $370 $390 $20 5
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (paper filing) $370 $400 $30 8
I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal $0 $50 $50 N/A
I-600/600A Adoption Petitions and Applications $775 $805 $30 4
I-600A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A N/A $400 N/A N/A
I-601 Application for Waiver of Ground of Excludability $930 $1,010 $80 9
I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver $630 $960 $330 52
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (Under Section 212(e) of the INA, as Amended) $930 $515 ($415) -45
I-687 Application for Status as a Temporary Resident $1,130 $1,130 $0 0
I-690 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility $715 $765 $50 7
I-694 Notice of Appeal of Decision $890 $715 ($175) -20
I-698 Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of the INA) $1,670 $1,615 ($55) -3
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence $595 $760 $165 28
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (Non-DACA) $410 $550 $140 34
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (DACA only) $410 $410 $0 0
I-800/800A Adoption Petitions and Applications $775 $805 $30 4
I-800A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A $385 $400 $15 4
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits $600 $590 ($10) -2
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition $465 $495 $30 6
I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions $3,750 $3,900 $150 4
I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation $285 $1,810 $1,525 535
I-881 Application for Special Rule Cancellation of Removal $570 $1,810 $1,240 218
I-910 Application for Civil Surgeon Designation $785 $635 ($150) -19
I-924 Application For Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program $17,795 $17,795 $0 0
I-924A Annual Certification of Regional Center $3,035 $4,465 $1,430 47
I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigran $230 $1,485 $1,255 546
N-300 Application to File Declaration of Intention $270 $1,305 $1,035 383
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (online filing) $700 $1,725 $1,025 146
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (paper filing) $700 $1,735 $1,035 148
N-400 Application for Naturalization (online filing) $640 $1,160 $520 81
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing) $640 $1,170 $530 83
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing) $320 $1,170 $850 266
N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes $355 $1,585 $1,230 346
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (online filing) $555 $535 ($20) -4
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (paper filing) $555 $545 ($10) -2
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (online filing) $1,170 $990 ($180) -15
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (paper filing) $1,170 $1,000 ($170) -15
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (online filing) $1,170 $935 ($235) -20
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (paper filing) $1,170 $945 ($225) -19
USCIS Immigrant Fee $220 $190 ($30) -14
Biometric Services (Non-DACA) $85 $30 ($55) -65
Biometric Services (DACA only) $85 $85 $0 0
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (online filing) $65 $160 $95 146
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (paper filing) $65 $170 $105 162
G-1041A Genealogy Records Request (online filing) $65 $255 $190 292
G-1041A Genealogy Records Request (paper filing) $65 $265 $200 308

Source of Information:

USCIS, 7/31/20, News Release:

USCIS Adjusts Fees to Help Meet Operational Needs

 

DHS Final Rule (PDF)

Source: Update – USCIS Immigration Filing Fees to Increase – Table

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