Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, (D) Massachusetts
Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate

Chairman Zoe Lofgren, (D) California, 16th
Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugee,
Border Security and International Law
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives

Re: Proposed Unconscionable USCIS Filing Fees

Dear Chairmen Kennedy and Lofgren,

We at Reeves & Associates call on the House and Senate Subcommittees on Immigration to prevent the unconscionable fee increases proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS recently published a proposal of filing fee increases for immigration and naturalization applications and petitions. We understand that filing fees must be raised from time to time to pay for the processing of applications and petitions. However, such increases should not be so extreme as to cause a chilling effect on the ability of people to apply for benefits for which they are eligible. This is especially true when the benefit is one that is as basic as lawful permanent resident status and citizenship.

The fee increases proposed by the DHS are extreme, unreasonable and unconscionable. There can be no justification for these harmful increases. Under the proposal, family petition (I-130) filing fees will increase from $190 to $355. Employment-based petitions (I-140) filing fees will rise to $475 from the current $195. Petitions to remove conditions (on temporary green cards based on marriages of less than 2 years duration) will be raised from $260 to $465. Applications for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident (I-485) will increase from the current $325 to a whopping $905 per applicant! Applications for naturalization will go from the current $330 to $595.

Let’s paint a realistic picture of the impact of these proposals. A typical example would be of a hardworking father who has an approved labor certification application. He needs to file an employment-based immigrant visa petition. He also wants his wife and three children to receive lawful permanent residence at the same time he does. He, his wife and children are all 245(i) grandfathered and, in fact, need 245(i) in order to be eligible to adjust. The I-140 will cost $475. Since each I-485 will cost $905, filing fees for the applications for adjustment will be $4,525. Since each applicant will also need to pay the §245(i) penalty of $1,000, the total cost of filing for this average family will be $10,000. How are they supposed to afford that? They can’t go to the bank and get a loan for it. They cannot pay it in installments. It must all be paid at once. Until it is paid, the applicants cannot become permanent residents and live a normal life. The fact that they are “in limbo” impacts their ability to obtain employment, attend school and purchase a home. Yet, under these proposed fee requirements, they will not be able to move forward. That “limbo” status negatively impacts the U.S. society. Taxes are paid by people who work. Society benefits when its children are educated. Construction and other industries benefit when people can afford to buy a home. None of this will happen despite the fact that these people are qualified for lawful permanent residence because they will not be able to afford the filing fees.

Turning to the proposal to raise the fee for naturalization, the proposal almost doubles the fee now charged ($330) to $595. This comes at a time when there is also a proposal to change the naturalization examination and to make it more difficult. While this may not be DHS’ intent, the implication is that DHS is trying to discourage people from applying for citizenship. The proposed fee increases combined with the proposed examination changes have the appearance of being akin to the poll tax and voter qualification examinations that were standard in the early to mid-twentieth century in certain parts of our nation. People should be encouraged to become full-fledged participating members of our society yet they can’t do that if they can’t pay the filing fee. This fee increase will essentially disenfranchise low income immigrants.

If DHS is truly spending as much money as the proposals claim in processing immigrant applications, perhaps DHS needs to examine its processing procedures and revise them. Perhaps the emphasis should be on making their procedures more efficient and less costly. Then there would be less need for unconscionable filing fees.

Or is there, perhaps, another reason for the exorbitant fee increase proposal?

The ill-advised war that this country is engaged in is quite expensive. However, the cost should not be placed on the backs of those trying to legalize their status or join the ranks of citizens. Reeves & Associates calls on the House and Senate Subcommittees on Immigration to bring DHS back to a position of reasonableness and fairness.