SF celebrates court decision blocking USCIS fee increases, urges immigrants to naturalize now


by the El Reportero‘s wire services

 

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco leaders celebrated a federal court decision that blocks U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from increasing fees for citizenship and other immigration benefits.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the fee increases days before they were set to take effect. USCIS had planned to increase fees, and largely eliminate fee waivers, for naturalization and other immigration benefits starting Oct. 2, 2020. The decision means that USCIS fees would not increase on Oct. 2, 2020, and fee waivers will still be available for qualifying applicants.

San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs and the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative lauded the judge’s decision, which gives immigrants more time to apply for a fee waiver and pay the current fees. But City and community leaders are encouraging immigrants not to wait.

“The San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative (SFPCI) applauds the court’s decision,” said Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly, the Initiative’s lead organization. “Since the inception of SFPCI in 2013, a vast majority of our participants were assisted with fee waivers and almost 10,000 LPRs (lawful permanent residents) became U.S. citizens.”

Funded by the City and local foundation partners, the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative has held 50 free workshops across San Francisco, provided legal screenings to nearly 15,000 immigrants, and saved applicants a total of nearly $4.5 million in application fees.

“San Francisco is committed to making citizenship more accessible, inclusive and affordable for our residents,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) and a co-founder of the Initiative.

The administration’s new fee rule would eliminate most fee waivers, and dramatically increase fees for naturalization from $725 to $1,170. It would double the cost of applying for a green card and related fees from $1,125 to $2,270, and charge a fee for asylum for the first time in American history. The rule was challenged by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., International Rescue Committee, OneAmerica, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Meanwhile, City and community leaders say those eligible for citizenship and other immigration benefits should apply now, and it is crucial for applicants who need financial assistance to get the help they need.

San Francisco is continuing its partnership with local non-profit organization Mission Asset Fund to help applicants cover the cost of citizenship and other immigration applications. The City of San Francisco provides a 50 percent match through Mission Asset Fund for applicants who live, work, or attend school in San Francisco. Applicants can use the 50 percent match to pay the filing fee for naturalization or other immigration benefits including Temporary Protected Status (TPS), U visas for crime victims, family petitions, or renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Applicants can make an individual appointment with a San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship partner organization at sfcitizenship.org, or leave a message on one of their multilingual hotlines: Spanish: 415-662-8902, English: 415-662-8901, Filipino: 415-692-6798; Russian: 415-754-3818.

[San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative and the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA)]