The Services Employees International Union (SEIU) recently filed a
federal lawsuit against the Unites States Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS), for overstepping its role as a federal agency and raising fees
well beyond basic processing costs. Following the agency's dramatic
July 30 citizenship fee hikes, the USCIS stands accused of unlawfully
charging citizenship and visa applicants for infrastructure upgrades,
expensive subcontractors, and other agency blunders.
In February, USCIS proposed fee hikes of as much as 69% for dozens of
immigrant processing services in order to "build a new immigration
service for the 21st Century." Despite receiving more than 4,000
formal complaints against the proposed fees--including an increase from
$400 to $675 to apply for US citizenship--USCIS moved forward, calling
it a "business decision." Yet USCIS has failed to show how the new
fees will improve its handling of the six million citizenship and visa
applications it receives each year, as well as the more than 3.5
million applications that are currently backlogged.
SEIU, representing its more than 1.9 million members, is joined by
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon's union of
farm workers, nursery, and reforestation workers, as lead plaintiffs
in the federal lawsuit.
"Frankly, we've yet to hear a good explanation for why we are seeing
an exponential jump in the fees for services. In 1998, it cost $95 to
apply for U.S. citizenship, but today--even after technology has made
nearly every processing service cheaper--USCIS is charging more than
$675," continued Medina. "We've waited far too long for an overhaul
of USCIS's services to now accept their plan to throw money at the
This lawsuit is about accountability. We need to hold USCIS
accountable so that it provides cutting-edge service at a fair cost.
We need to hold Congress accountable for doing its job and to provide
funding for an effective restructuring of USCIS's services. Everyone
agrees we need solutions for our broken immigration system, and fixing
the flaws in the infrastructure is a key component."
"Everyone is willing to pay fair fees for fair services," said SEIU
Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina, "but USCIS delivers bad
service at an outrageous price. For an Administration that claims to
promote integration and a pathway to the American Dream, USCIS's
choice to burden hard-working, law-abiding immigrants with the costs
of their own incompetence is shameful."
The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration,
Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a
September 20, 2007 hearing on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) fee increase rule. The Subcommittee heard the
testimony from top USCIS officials, including the USCIS Deputy
Director, the Chief Financial Officer, and theociate Director for
Domestic Operations, as well as representatives of professional and
Addressing the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on
Immigration, Mr. Vargas urged USCIS to rescind its recent application
fee increases. To support his position, Mr. Vargas described how the
new fees place undue financial burden upon many foreign nationals.
According to Mr. Vargas, the new fees will need to be lowered to
permit the nation's newcomers to pursue their immigration goals.
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