February 2, 2007

Hispanic and Asian Pacific American Caucuses To USCIS: Immigration Fees Must Be Affordable

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) respond to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) announcement of fee increases for immigration applications, naturalization applications, and mandatory fingerprint checks.

CHC and CAPAC issued a letter to USCIS in December 2006 requesting a copy of the Comprehensive Fee Study conducted by USCIS. The letter also expressed both caucuses’ concern regarding the need to balance funding of USCIS operations with assuring that individuals who are eligible for services are able to afford them.

“Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus understand that fees need to be reassessed from time to time,” said Congressman Joe Baca, Chair of the CHC. “However, given today’s political climate, the continuing discrimination that immigrants face around the country, and the need for immigrants to be up to date with their status, we believe it’s our duty to assure USCIS services are affordable. ”

“Two-thirds of the 14 million Asian and Pacific Islanders (API) in the United States are foreign-born. A 66% fee increase would have a significant negative impact on the API community,” said Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), Chair of CAPAC. “To ensure family unity and the opportunity that America promises to those who wish to contribute, it is important that the naturalization process remain fair and accessible. CAPAC looks forward to working closely with USCIS to ensure that any increases are justified and reasonable.”

“These proposed fee hikes are a glaring example of the government imposing a higher price on its customers, while continuing to offer inadequate, inefficient and ineffective service,” said U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force. “Prospective citizens are not asking for a free ride— they are simply asking for fairness, and for a broken bureaucracy, with an unacceptable backlog, to stop trying to fix its failures by imposing unreasonable fees on low-income, working families. For too long, USCIS has burdened prospective citizens with indirect costs not related to the application process.”

“If these kinds of fees had been in effect over the last two hundred years, millions of millions of immigrants who forged the foundation of our nation would have stayed where they were,” said Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Immigration Task Force. “We cannot price immigration services to put legal admission to the country and the dream of American citizenship out of the reach of hard-working people.”

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