The Trump administration’s latest scheme to fund its ever-increasing restrictions on immigration is all about the money.
In continuing efforts to make the United States as unwelcoming to immigrants as possible, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department’s proposed fee schedule centers on fees, fees, and more fees, levied not just at new arrivals, but also people who are already here.
Under the proposal, a new $50 fee would be imposed on asylum applications, citizenship applications would see a $500 price hike, and a new fee would be added for certain immigrants who entered the US as children to renew protections.
As Buzzfeed News—who broke the story Friday night—notes, the U.S. has never before charged those seeking asylum … which is the global norm.
In fact, there are only three nations on the entire planet who ask the world’s most vulnerable to pay a cover charge: Fiji, Australia, and Iran.
Fifty dollars may not seem like much to the average American, but the average American has also not fled their home country in order to survive. Too many asylum seekers make it to the border after arduous journeys they could only undertake after using up every resource they might have had left. Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, tells Buzzfeed News that such a fee structure “may be prohibitively expensive for certain families who have spent their entire savings just to reach our border."
Of course, that’s the point. This is just the latest move in Donald Trump’s mission to tear down the existing immigration system and rebuild it in his own image. As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) press release notes, the agency is funded primarily by fees, rather than taxes.
“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already over-extended system,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS. “Furthermore, the adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request.”
With all those baby cages to buy and private prisons to enrich, USCIS has to get more money from somewhere.
However, “the cost to collect the fee will probably outweigh the fee itself and doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application,” an unnamed USCIS official told Buzzfeed News, noting that this is just “another example of the Trump administration putting up punitive barriers to asylum.”
For all his shrieking about illegal immigration, this latest move is designed to chill legal immigration. The good news is, there is an opportunity to fight this ridiculous fee schedule, as this proposal will soon be open to Public Comment! We’ll keep you updated.