Nessel, 18 AGs join effort to block DHS immigration fees increase 

    Immigrant rights rally at the Capitol, July 12, 2019 | Derek Robertson

    Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a legal challenge to a federal final rule that alters fee requirements for individuals seeking immigration-related applications.

    She and 18 other states’ attorneys general on Monday filed an amicus brief that supports blocking the rule, which was handed down by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early August and increases a number of fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

    The rule removes some fee exemptions and alters fee waiver rules. DHS said fees are reviewed every other year and this year determined “current fees do not recover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services.”

    For example, an individual wishing to become a U.S. citizen will now pay $1,160 if they submit a citizenship application online or $1,170 if they submit a paper application. In previous years, individuals paid $640 to submit the citizenship application. 

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    “Unfortunately, the current administration continues to attempt to implement rules that create unwarranted and improper impediments for individuals seeking to immigrate or obtain asylum in this country,” Nessel said. “Immigrants who call Michigan home play a vital role in our economy and are crucial to the strength of our state’s diversity. To implement more barriers for those hoping to live here legally is unnecessary and unacceptable.”    

    Michigan had about 2,500 asylum seekers and refugees arrive each year between 2015 and 2017. Immigrants also make up almost 10% of the state’s workforce. 

    The final rule goes into effect Oct. 2. 

    The coalition’s amicus brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in support of several immigration rights organizations who brought a lawsuit against DHS officials for the rule.

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    Coalition members said USCIS “failed to adequately justify the changes and instead unlawfully allocated fee increases in a manner that disproportionately burdens low-income applicants.” 

    The coalition believes the rule does the following: 

    • Robs states and local jurisdictions of the economic and societal contributions of immigrants and ultimately threatens public health by limiting the accessibility of government-funded health insurance
    • Frustrates state programs aimed at helping immigrants achieve financial and legal security
    • Undermines the rule of law and public safety by making it more difficult for immigrant workers and victims of crimes to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement and labor agencies, including those that protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes, as well as government entities that work to combat wage theft, exploitation and hazardous work conditions 

    The coalition is made up of Nessel and the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

     

    C.J. Moore
    C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.