EDITORIAL: Buying in

Immigration fee increases seem too large at one time

The benefits of living in the United States are immeasurable. That is why so many people continue to arrive at our borders seeking entry, even after three years of aggressive antiimmigrant posturing and actions by the current administration. The administration is about to make it even harder for foreign-born people to get in, and stay in.

The cost of applying for residency, naturalization and other U.S. immigration visas has gone up steadily in recent years, and the government has announced another increase this year — to nearly double the current costs.

The increase seems extreme, especially at one time, especially considering the fact that the last significant fee increase was just a little more than three years ago.

The fee to apply for citizenship will increase from the current $640 to $1,170 — an increase of 83%; related fees, such as a biometric services fee, will increase 79%, from $1,220 to $2,195. The application fee for permanent legal residency — popularly called the “green card” regardless of the actual color — will go up by almost $1,000, from $1,520 to $2,750. Renewals for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will rise a more modest 55%, from $495 to $765.

In addition, many fee waivers and reductions for indigent applicants and other situations are being eliminated.

During the requisition and public comment period that ended Dec. 16, the Department of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services said the increases are needed to address growing costs of biometrics and other services associated with processing and granting the applications. The current fee structure generates some $4.6 billion a year, and the agency said that amount will leave a $1.26 billion shortfall.

Since the increases were approved, however, the Trump administration and Department of Homeland Security, which oversees USCIS, have said the additional revenue will be used to further strengthen border enforcement operations.

Congress set such fees until 1968, when lawmakers enacted legislation enabling federal agencies to establish their own fee structures. Since then the costs have skyrocketed.

In 1989, for example, it cost $85 to apply for a green card and $35 to request citizenship.

Living here is invaluable. The freedoms, opportunity and resources found here have enabled many foreign-born residents to succeed, even attain incredible wealth. Such people benefit the nation as well, with their achievements, inventions, jobs and other contributions, not to mention the tax revenue they contribute to their communities and the country as a whole. And while fees for many services should be adequate to help offset the costs of those services, they can’t be unreasonably high; otherwise they threaten to keep out many of those very people who can provide so many benefits to our country.

Ideally, the administration would decide that it’s more reasonable to increases, with reviews after each step. It just might find that the full amount isn’t needed.