Yesterday, a San Francisco federal judge temporarily blocked an increase in the cost of citizenship and other immigration application fees, an upsurge initiated by the Trump administration. These increases were scheduled to go into effect on Friday, October 2nd, and would raise the citizenship application cost from $640 to $1,160– an 81% increase. The proposal also included a $50 fee for filing an asylum application and would remove many of the fee waivers for low-income applicants.
The judge who blocked this issuance, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, ruled that these changes cannot proceed while the lawsuit is moving through the courts. He said, “If it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose populations to further danger”. These increased fees would impact businesses, newly naturalized citizens, and international students. Moreover, premium processing of cases would take longer – 15 business days, rather than the current policy of 15 calendar days.
Judge White determined that the standard in this case was met to grant a motion for preliminary injunction, based on four main reasons: “Plaintiffs must show that (1) they are likely to succeed on the merits, (2) they are likely to ‘suffer irreparable harm’ without relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in their favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.” He also wrote, “Unlike the FCC in Consumer Electronics, it is not immediately evident that DHS has been gathering data over the years about the impact of price increases on applications for immigration benefits. In addition, these statements appear to ignore information presented during the notice and comment period that contradict DHS’ beliefs about price elasticity of demand” and “In large part, DHS responded to such concerns by reference to the arguments about price elasticity of demand and its belief that the change is necessary to fully recover costs of adjudication. For the reasons discussed above, that explanation is not supported by adequate data.” This ruling impedes the Trump administration’s goals to limit and control naturalization, and immigration as a whole.
Sources: Wall Street Journal 9/29/20, Forbes 9/30/20