Various immigrant rights groups filed suit on Oct. 30, on behalf of organizations and communities who will be irreparably harmed by new rules for citizenship applicants.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, Protect Democracy, and Mayer Brown LLP said the new rules, announced on Oct. 25, will make it much harder to qualify for a fee waiver. It is $725 to apply for citizenship and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently waives the fee for those who cannot afford to pay it, which is approximately 40 percent of applicants.
AAJC President and Executive Director John Yang said, “This rule change is about changing the complexion of future immigrants from Black and brown to white and furthers a class-based society that is discriminatory and unwelcoming.”
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS was grilled by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30 about Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Addressing Cuccinelli, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said, “You and Mr. Trump don’t want anyone who looks or talks differently than Caucasian Americans to be allowed into this country.”
To which Cuccinelli responded, “That’s false.”
Should poor people be allowed be allowed to become U.S. citizens? Apparently Donald Trump doesn’t think so.
Recent research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab suggests that the new rules could reduce the number of applications filed each year by as much as 10 percent, and make it impossible for some poor lawful permanent residents to apply at all.
USCIS defended the move as a way to cut costs and standardize the criteria for who is eligible for a fee waiver, given that means-tested benefit eligibility varies substantially from state to state. But advocates have called it another attack on legal immigration.
The executive director of OneAmerica, Rich Stolz said the rules “create a two-tiered immigration and naturalization system—a ‘fast track’ for the wealthy and a much more difficult path for everyone else.”
Immigrants are typically not eligible to naturalize until they have lived as lawful permanent residents in the United States for five years, speak English, understand U.S. history and civics, and demonstrate a commitment to the U.S. Constitution.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, “Wealth is not and should never be a requirement of being an American citizen. Seattle will fight for the promise of America and against a pay-to-play approach to citizenship…Immigrants and refugees are part of Seattle’s heritage, and they will continue to make us the city of the future.”
The new rule is set to take effect on Dec. 2.
If you’re not a big fan of Donald Trump and his policies, take steps to become eligible to vote before November 2020. Between now and then, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are expected to receive their U.S. citizenship and also become eligible to vote. Your voice matters and you have the power to make a change.
For free assistance with your citizenship application, go to wanewamericans.org or text or call (206) 926-3924.