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Bush Administration Plans Increases In Citizenship, Immigration Fees January 31, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The Bush administration will propose nearly doubling the fee its charges applicants for U.S. citizenship and significantly increasing fees for other immigration benefits, congressional and administration officials said Tuesday.

Fees for a wide variety of immigration services would rise an average of 66%, said the two government officials, who did not want to be named because the administration was scheduled to announce the proposal Wednesday.

The current fee of $330 to apply for citizenship would rise to slightly less than $600, said the administration official.

Congressional Democrats earlier this month warned the director of the Homeland Security Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services that they planned to review the agency’s analyses behind any proposed immigration fee increases.

Immigration advocates have been bracing for the expected hikes. William Ramos, Washington director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said the increases are “just going to be devastating to our communities.”

“It will basically create another obstacle for those who want to realize their dream of becoming American citizens,” Ramos said.

Other fee increases are possible for green cards conveying legal residency, which now cost $325. Applicants also now pay a $70 fingerprinting fee in each case. Fees also are paid for things such as work permits, replacing lost green cards, and petitions to adopt orphans from other countries.

Democratic lawmakers said in a letter last week to Emilio Gonzalez, Citizenship and Immigration Services director, that they want to review how the agency came up with the proposed increases, and the cost estimates, assumptions and methodology used by the agency to justify the hikes.

The letter was signed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., immigration subcommittee chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and immigration subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Citizenship and Immigration Services covers its costs with application fees. The agency is required to do a fee analysis every two years to determine whether money raised from fees is covering costs. The agency last raised its fees in 2004, citing the cost of more intense background checks in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Immigrant advocates have long argued that the agency’s costs cannot be absorbed by application fees. They want Congress to appropriate money to help pay costs.

Large fee increases would be heavily felt in the Asian community, where two-thirds of the population in the U.S. is foreign-born, said Traci Hong, director of the immigration program for the Asian American Justice Center.

About 70% of foreign-born Asians in the country become American citizens, a high rate for immigrants. Hong worried that higher naturalization fees would slow that rate.

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