Judge Says Rule Likely Unlawful Because 'Arbitrary and Capricious,' Wolf Not Validly Serving as Acting DHS Secretary
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia late Thursday night granted a preliminary injunction suspending a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule that raised fees for immigrants applying for naturalization, asylum, employment authorization and humanitarian protections. Public Citizen and immigrant advocacy groups Ayuda, CASA, and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) filed a complaint challenging the rule in August.
For low-income immigrants, high fees can pose a barrier to obtaining the right to work, residing in the U.S. or seeking American citizenship.
The court enjoined the rule on the basis that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the rule was arbitrary and capricious, because DHS failed to account for the harm it would cause and failed to grapple with the evidence that high fees will price immigrants out of applying for important benefits. In addition, the court pointed to the likely unlawful appointment of Chad F. Wolf as acting secretary of Homeland Security as grounds for the injunction. Wolf adopted the final rule for DHS.
“The DHS rule is an inhumane attack on low-income immigrants,” said Rebecca Smullin, the Public Citizen attorney serving as lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “We applaud the court’s decision, which will protect immigrants’ ability to seek lawful status and become citizens.”
“The court’s order confirms that the administration, in its haste to create additional obstacles to block our clients from becoming citizens or applying for lawful status, violated the law in several respects,” said Matt Adams, legal director for NWIRP. “Whether doubling the fees for naturalization applications, or, for the first time, requiring filing fees for asylum seekers – including those kept in detention who often have nothing beyond the clothes on their back, the rule demonstrates utter disregard for the real life human consequences.”
“Today’s order recognizes what individuals subject to this unlawfully propagated rule knew since the moment it was proposed: that unjustified (and often astronomical) increases in the fees charged and further narrowing of the availability of fee waivers would hurt immigrants profoundly and prevent them from accessing the immigration benefits to which they are entitled,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, legal director for Ayuda.
“This ruling is yet another affirmation that the Trump administration’s attempts to suppress the power of our members by pricing them out of immigration status will not stand,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA. “CASA will continue to fight the systems of oppression that lead to vast economic disparities along racial lines, while striving to overhaul a broken immigration system that separates families and perpetuates white supremacy.”
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. Public Citizen defends democracy, resists corporate power and works to ensure that government works for the people. Through its Litigation Group, Public Citizen litigates to protect the rights of consumers to access the courts and to stop rollbacks of important consumer, worker and environmental protections.
Ayuda provides legal, social and language services to help immigrants from all over the world access justice and transform their lives. Since 1973, Ayuda has served more than 100,000 low-income immigrants throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, helping them to navigate the immigration and justice systems and access the social safety net. www.ayuda.com.
With more than 100,000 members across the states of Maryland, Virginia and South Central Pennsylvania, CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education. www.nwirp.org