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  WINDY CITY TIMES

ICIRR, coalition of immigrant rights groups sue over the unlawful fee rule
--From a press release
2020-08-21

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[Chicago] — The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights ( ICIRR ) today announced that it has joined a coalition of nine of the nation's leading immigrant rights organizations in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security ( DHS ), Chad Wolf, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS ), and Kenneth Cuccinelli over DHS's new Fee Rule increasing application fees for immigration benefits, including citizenship and asylum. The coalition is seeking an emergency nationwide injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect on October 2, 2020.

"This fee rule continues this administration's war on immigrants and sets up major barriers for immigrants who aspire to US citizenship," said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel at ICIRR. "The drastic fee hike and the removal of fee waivers will price out many immigrants who qualify for naturalization in all aspects except the ability to pay. This illegal, nonsensical, and cruel fee rule must not stand."

DHS's Fee Rule has been widely condemned for its exclusionary impact on vulnerable immigrant families, and particularly people of color. By raising naturalization fees by an unprecedented 83 percent while eliminating most fee waivers for qualifying low-income immigrants, DHS has made the cost of obtaining citizenship prohibitively high for millions of eligible permanent residents, effectively imposing a wealth test for citizenship. And by establishing the nation's first-ever fee for asylum seekers, the Trump Administration has made the United States just one of four countries in the world to impose such a fee on people fleeing dangerous situations.

ICIRR submitted comments opposing the Fee Rule, raising specific concerns about the proposed increase in naturalization fees and the elimination of most fee waivers. These changes will in particular exclude thousands of applicants whom ICIRR and our program partner organizations assist through the New Americans Initiative ( NAI ), a partnership between ICIRR and the Illinois Department of Human Services. Half of all applicants through NAI qualify for fee waivers that the Fee Rule will end, and many others will otherwise be priced out by the higher fee.

In their lawsuit, ICIRR and the other plaintiffs argue that DHS's new Fee Rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act because it is contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious agency action. The rule raises application fees for many essential immigration benefits by 30 to 266 percent. DHS justified the rule by claiming skyrocketing costs and a budgetary shortfall. But during the notice and comment period, many commenters criticized the Fee Rule for failing to explain how USCIS calculated its costs and burned through the ample cash reserves it had on hand just a few years ago. The coalition challenges USCIS' budgetary model and revenue projections in their lawsuit.

"With DHS's new Fee Rule, the Trump Administration has demonstrated its willingness to disregard the rule of law in pursuit of its anti-immigrant and xenophobic agenda," said Melissa Rodgers, Director of Programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. "By failing to address the rule's obviously flawed revenue modeling projections, the Trump Administration has not only undercut its own legal rationale for finalizing the rule, it has contradicted statements to Congress by USCIS' own leadership about the financial conditions of the agency. Once again, the historic racism and bigotry of this administration is matched only by its staggering incompetence."

About the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Established in 1986, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.

About the Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Immigrant Legal Resource Center ( ILRC ) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policymakers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training and technical assistance, and policy development and advocacy, the ILRC protects and defends the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. As a key part of its mission, ILRC serves as the lead agency for the New Americans Campaign, a non-partisan national campaign aimed at increasing the number of new Americans by ensuring access to the naturalization process and trusted legal assistance.

About the American Immigration Lawyers Association

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

About East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Founded in 1982 in response to civil war in Central America, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant ( EBSC ) provides legal services, community organizing, and transformative education to over 10,000 refugees and people fleeing violence and persecution, reaching over 10,000 people yearly. Through our holistic programming, EBSC helps immigrants and asylum seekers achieve legal status, citizenship, and well-being as they overcome extraordinary obstacles and achieve their dreams for themselves and society. EBSC works with the most marginalized populations fleeing violence and persecution, including unaccompanied minors; torture victims; survivors of gender-based violence, and individuals from the LGBT community.

About Asian Counseling and Referral Service

Asian Counseling and Referral Service ( ACRS ) offers hope and opportunity in over 40 languages and dialects. We provide one door through which Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders of many generations — immigrant, refugee, or American born — can find the resources they need. We help transform the lives of families and individuals by helping people feed their loved ones, access resources, gain English language and work skills, become American citizens, recover from addiction, and achieve mind and body wellness. We serve seniors and people with disabilities, and we connect youth with job training and leadership development opportunities while ensuring they and their families receive the support they need to succeed in a new land. We support AAPIs and other underserved populations by advocating for their communities about issues that matter most to them.

About the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights ( CHIRLA ) was founded in 1986. CHIRLA is a California leader with a national impact made of diverse immigrant families and individuals who act as agents of social change to achieve a world with freedom of mobility, full human rights, and true participatory democracy. CHIRLA's mission is to achieve a just society fully inclusive of immigrants. CHIRLA organizes and serves individuals, institutions, and coalitions to build power, transform public opinion, and change policies to achieve full human, civil and labor rights. Guided by the power, love, and vision of our community, CHIRLA embraces and drives progressive social change. CHIRLA was formed in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act ( IRCA ) of 1986 which made hiring undocumented workers illegal, thus creating a situation ripe for worker exploitation and abuse which have increased since that time.

About OneAmerica

OneAmerica is the largest advocacy organization in Washington State, that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies. Their The Washington New Americans Program ( WNA ) connects immigrants and refugees in Washington State to the information and legal services needed to successfully naturalize and exercise their civic voice.

About the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — over 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

About the International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.


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