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Washington’s proposed increase in immigration fees may only have wealthy prospective citizens in mind.
A proposal from the U.S. Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services would raise fees for becoming a legal U.S. resident from $325 to $905. The fee to apply for citizenship would go from $330 to $595. Low-income immigrants may get left out, especially if more than one family member wants citizenship.
The increases would not be final until they have gone through a public review and comment period, and would probably take effect in June if approved, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“People want to be legal, but the proposed fees raise is substantial, and for families that can be a big chunk of change,” said Lisa E. Battan, an immigration attorney in Boulder.
Battan helps immigrants with legal counsel on issues of family- and employment-based immigration.
Battan said the increased immigration fee could be as much as 66 percent.
“Unfortunately, what they are asking of some immigrants may be more than they can handle, and some people might just say, ‘forget it,’” Battan said.
United Mexican American Students and Movimiento Estudiantil Xicana/o de Aztlan are two students groups not surprised by the sudden increase in immigration fees.
Zach Serrano is a senior ethnic studies major and a member of UMAS and MEXA.
“The average citizen doesn’t understand the process of trying to become a citizen, but America thinks that by raising money it will solve our immigration problem,” Serrano said. “To fix this problem they need to make a process that is feasible.”
The extra money created by the increase will impact residency fees and possibly work permits and citizenship. The money would go toward an increase in manpower for agencies that allow immigrants citizenship. The government says the increased funds are supposed to speed up the citizenship process.
Some feel the extra fees immigrants would have to pay are something taxpayers should be responsible for.
“This would make us the most expensive country to naturalize in,” Battan said. “We should give people the benefit they deserve.”
Some students feel most immigrants do not always come from Latin America and the fees are only targeting the problems we see in the immigration surge.
Jisha Jacob, a senior physiology major, has parents who immigrated from India.
“Citizenship is something my family respects, but with this fee, it falls into the stereotype of America being this money-hungry country. And that is not a good stereotype,” Jacob said.
Jacob gained citizenship when her parents naturalized before she was 18.
“I want America to respect immigration and remember where we all came from,” Jacob said. “They should make a process that is more valuable, instead of basing it on currency.”
However, officials say the increases are necessary to make the process of immigration more efficient and less costly in the long term.
“As a fee-based agency, we must be able to recover the costs necessary to administer an efficient and secure immigration system that ultimately improves service delivery, prevents future backlogs, closes security gaps, and furthers our modernization efforts,” said Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez in a press release issued on Jan. 31. “We’re confident that this fee adjustment will enable the type of exceptional immigration service our nation expects and deserves.”
The agency says the fee increases will allow it to trim waiting periods for naturalization and permanent residency by as much as two months, according to the release. Wait times currently are about six to seven months.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Renee Tavera at email@example.com