- $1,485 The amount that survivors of crime applying for citizenship for their children or spouse would be forced to pay, more than six times the current fee.
- $600 The amount that asylum seekers would be forced to pay in order to seek protection and the right to work in the United States.
- $1 billion The total amount that these added fees would benefit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) without justification for the need of such a budget increase
DHS’s rule is cruel and unlawful. DHS should not use its budget as an excuse to price immigrants out of the opportunity to receive asylum and citizenship.Rebecca Smullin, attorney for Public Citizen
On August 3, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a rule requiring immigrants seeking naturalization, asylum, employment authorization and humanitarian protections to pay new and increased fees. The rule would eliminate fee waivers for low-income immigrants in most circumstances, significantly increase existing fees for many important immigration benefits, and impose new fees on applications for other essential immigration benefits.
This rule was not the first time that the Trump administration attempted to create fee-related barriers to immigrants’ ability to apply for such benefits. In October 2019, DHS had adopted changes to a form and manuals to restrict the ways in which individuals could qualify for waivers. Representing Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Citizen filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge those changes.
Public Citizen expanded the lawsuit in October, adding Ayuda and Casa de Maryland as additional plaintiffs, and adding challenge to the August rule. The complaint alleged that the new rule was adopted with procedural violations and violated provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It also alleged that DHS’s actions were invalid because the DHS officials who adopted them were serving in violation of the Homeland Security Act or the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
We promptly filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block the August rule from going into effect. On October 9, 2020, the court granting our motion on the basis 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 held that the appointment of Chad F. Wolf as acting secretary of DHS was likely unlawful, and thus that he likely lacked authority to issue the rule.