New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined over 50 mayors and county executives, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in sending the Trump administration a letter.
The letter is in demanding that it withdraw a proposed regulation that would dramatically increase immigration application fees, eliminate most fee waivers, and transfer funds from application fees to immigration enforcement.
“Once again, the Trump administration is attacking the people we call our neighbors, our friends, and our families by making citizenship and immigration benefits unattainable unless you are wealthy,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Immigrants, including those fleeing persecution and seeking safety, make our City what it is and I am proud to stand with mayors and county executives across the country to fight against this un-American rule.”
“Immigrant families strengthen our economies and make our city stronger. We know that realizing asylum, DACA, or citizenship has an extraordinary ability to empower families in reaching their fullest potential. That is why we have invested in programs that help our immigrant communities access justice,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). “We call on USCIS to stop this unconscionable rule and pledge to do everything in our power to fight back against it.”
The proposed rule would increase the U.S. citizenship application fee by 83 percent, changing it from $640 to $1,170. It would also increase the fee for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals from $495 to $765, adding yet another obstacle by the Trump administration to prevent Dreamers from applying, while we await decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Additionally, it would add a $50 fee for affirmative asylum applications. If implemented, the fees would make the U.S. just the fourth country in the world to charge those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum.
The rule would also eliminate the use of fee waivers for most applications—which is a critical tool for low-income immigrants who can demonstrate that they cannot afford the high cost of applications. USCIS already previously sought to limit the use of the fee waiver —a change which was halted last week when a federal judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction.
The proposal would also seek to justify transferring about $112 million that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) collects from application fees to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for enforcement purposes.
Currently, about 45 percent of New York City’s eligible-to-naturalize population are eligible for a fee waiver or reduced fee from USCIS. If the proposed rule were to go into effect, about 280,100 New York City residents eligible-to-naturalize would no longer be eligible for application cost assistance.
Newly released City data, from MOIA and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity), found that New York City is home to about 622,000 Lawful Permanent Residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens through naturalization but have not done so. A number of barriers prevent immigrants from applying for citizenship, including cost, lack of information, a need for legal assistance, and English language proficiency. The lengthy timeline for naturalization may also pose a deterrent: current application processing times for USCIS are up to 24 months in New York City.
A new MOIA and NYC Opportunity fact sheet outlines these findings and additional data that shows the benefits of naturalization to the individual and the communities they live in. For individuals who naturalize, research shows that individual annual earnings increase by an average of 8.9 percent or $3,200, the employment rate rises 2.2 percentage points, and homeownership increases 6.3 percentage points. These economic gains can be attributed to a number of reasons, including access to a broader range of employment opportunities and the fact that naturalization provides a sense of permanency that can promote long-term investments such as buying a home, starting a business, and investing. And if all eligible-to-naturalize immigrants in New York City were to become U.S. citizens, annual city, state, and federal tax revenue would rise by $789 million and public benefits costs would decrease by $34 million, for a net benefit of $823 million per year.
The comment period for the proposed rule, which could go into effect as early as Spring 2020, remains open until December 30th. To review the rule and submit a public comment see here