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AG Nessel Joins Effort Against Fed's Sweeping, Unlawful Increases to Immigration Fees

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 18 other attorneys general  in filing an amicus brief in support of a legal effort to immediately block the Trump Administration’s new regulation arbitrarily and dramatically increasing fees for immigration-related applications. As part of the rule, the federal government — for the first time in U.S. history — will impose fees on asylum applications for those fleeing violence and persecution. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition highlights the chilling and potentially dangerous effects the arbitrary fee increases will have on immigrant families and the states, and urges the court to grant a preliminary injunction.

“Unfortunately, the current administration continues to attempt to implement rules that create unwarranted and improper impediments for individuals seeking to immigrate or obtain asylum in this country,” said Attorney General Nessel. “Immigrants who call Michigan home play a vital role in our economy and are crucial to the strength of our state’s diversity. To implement more barriers for those hoping to live here legally is unnecessary and unacceptable."

Michigan is sixth among all states with asylum seeker and refugee arrivals between 2015-2017— which equates to about 2,500 people per year. In addition, immigrants make up nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce and comprise close to 34,000 of the state’s entrepreneurs. Immigrants pay about $6.7 billion in state and local taxes and have a spending power of $18.2 billion.

On Aug. 3, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a final rule dramatically increasing its fee schedule for a wide range of immigration-related applications, including citizenship and asylum. The rule raises fees for many crucial applications by as much as 30 to 546 percent. It imposes these new costs while also eliminating fee waivers that have traditionally allowed lower-income immigrants to become fully integrated U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. For instance, the cost of the fee application to become a U.S. citizen has skyrocketed under the rule from $640 to $1,170, an 83 percent increase. For qualifying family members of a victim of crime who receives a U-visa, the application fee has risen astronomically from $230 to $1,485, a 546 percent increase. In promulgating the rule, USCIS failed to adequately justify the changes and instead unlawfully allocated fee increases in a manner that disproportionately burdens low-income applicants. Ultimately, the rule is an unprecedented attack designed to limit access to immigration and the citizenship application process.

In the amicus brief -- filed Wednesday, the coalition asserts that the rule:

  • Robs states and local jurisdictions of the economic and societal contributions of immigrants and ultimately threatens public health by limiting the accessibility of government-funded health insurance;
  • Frustrates state programs aimed at helping immigrants achieve financial and legal security; and
  • Undermines the rule of law and public safety by making it more difficult for immigrant workers and victims of crimes to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement and labor agencies, including those that protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes, as well as government entities that work to combat wage theft, exploitation and hazardous work conditions. 

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in filing this brief.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.