Yesterday we left off with the question of why they would charge a $50 fee on asylum seekers if it wouldn’t even cover the processing cost, their justification for the hikes on all kinds of other fees.
Even The Kingston Trio sang about how if you’re a stranger in a strange land who has nothing, you’re going to be stuck in your situation because you can’t reach out to anyone who will give you the money you need.
We’ve long heard misinformation from Donald Trump about people crossing our border, including Mexico sending its bad people to us and that there are too many immigrants from shithole nations rather than good places like Norway.
Despite repeated claims by the Department of Homeland Security to the contrary (as we’ll go into through the upcoming posts), this sure sounds like a barrier too high for the poor and no problem for the rich.
And that’s bad.
Asylum cases should be determined independent of wealth. Asylum is a humanitarian effort after all.
Something cool about our government’s process is the incorporation of public comments into lawmaking. There’s even a government website somewhat dedicated to it.
The changes to immigration fees, including the implementation of the asylum charge was no exception to this process.
I was just late to the party. By a lot. But other people weren’t, and that is encouraging that people care.
(Also there’s so much new to me as I continue to find real answers for this series. I hadn’t known about the proposed changes, and I didn’t know that things were open to public comment. Sure, there have been community meetings, planning commission meetings, city council meetings, etc. that allow for public comment, but I didn’t really consider that this was a thing that existed for something on this scale. I figure that if I care enough about this to do research for myself, I might as well clue you in on where to find the information, too. So I’ve been ramping up on the citations.)
I’ve decided to analyze comments and responses because people used to this process and much more knowledgeable about these issues than I wanted to stop this. I think it’s important to know what they think and if their points are better and more coherent than mine.
The comments start off with the following main points:
Comment: Multiple commenters generally opposed charging asylum applicants a fee. Commenters stated:
DHS should not expect people fleeing harm and in need of protection to pay a fee.
-These individuals often have few economic resources, the few resources that they do have are necessary for survival.
-They should not endure the added burden of a fee to gain asylum and other immigration services.
-Asylum seekers joining family in the United States are often financially dependent on their family members, and an asylum fee would create an additional burden on their families.
-Asylum should not be based on an applicant’s socio-economic status.
-Fees would be detrimental to survivors of torture, impacting their mental health and well-being by obstructing access to live and work in the United States.
-A $50 fee would further endanger asylum seekers’ health and safety.
-DHS should consider asylum seekers’ humanity and suggested that the rule dehumanized the issue.
-Commenters rejected the notion that those seeking asylum represent a cost that the nation must recoup.
-If the revenue from these fees were being used to assistance to those seeking asylum, they would be less opposed to the fee increases.
-DHS did not provide adequate justification for charging an asylum fee.
My analysis of this comment:
This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been saying, but it adds that some people are seeking asylum to be with their families, and I hadn’t considered that. However, the idea that it would be fine to charge a fee if the fee were to be used to help people who are seeking asylum isn’t a feeling I share.
But then the Department of Homeland Security replies (emphases mine):
Response: DHS acknowledges the humanitarian plight of legitimate asylum seekers. In recognition of the circumstances of many of these applicants, DHS establishes a $50 fee for Form I-589 for most applicants (unaccompanied alien children in removal proceedings who file Form I-589 with USCIS are not required to pay the fee). DHS expects that charging this fee will generate some revenue to offset adjudication costs, but DHS is not aligning the fee with the beneficiary-pays principle, because the estimated cost of adjudicating Form I-589 exceeds $50. As DHS stated in its NPRM, it does not intend to recover the full cost of adjudicating asylum applications via the Form I-589 fee. See 84 FR 62318. Instead, DHS establishes a $50 application fee to generate some revenue to offset costs. DHS will recover the additional costs of asylum adjudications (via cost reallocation) by charging other fee-paying applicants and petitioners more, consistent with historical practice and statutory authority. See INA section 286(m), 8 U.S.C. 1356(m). DHS does not intend to discourage meritorious asylum claims or unduly burden any applicant, group of applicants, or their families.
In the NPRM, DHS provided substantial justifications for establishing an asylum application fee. DHS explained that USCIS has experienced a continuous, sizeable increase in the affirmative asylum backlog over the last several years. DHS explored ways to alleviate the pressure that the asylum workload places on the administration of other immigration benefits and determined that a minimal fee would mitigate fee increases for other immigration benefit requests. See 84 FR 62318. DHS estimated the cost of adjudicating Form I-589 and considered asylum fees charged by other nations. DHS also considered the authority provided in INA section 208(d)(3), various fee amounts, whether the fee would be paid in installments over time or all at once, if the fee would be waivable, and decided to establish a minimal $50 fee.
As stated in the NPRM, DHS believes that the fee can be paid in one payment, would generate revenue to offset costs, and not be so high as to be unaffordable to an indigent applicant. See 84 FR 62319. Further, DHS has provided the advance notice of and the reasons for the change in its longstanding policy as required by the APA. This change will only apply prospectively to asylum applications filed after the effective date of this final rule.Nevertheless, as a result of the concerns raised by commenters, DHS is providing in this final rule that Form I-485 filed in the future for principal asylum applicants who pay the Form I-589 fee of $50 and are granted asylum and apply for adjustment of status will pay a fee that is $50 less than other Form I-485 filers. See new 8 CFR 106.2(a)(17)(ii). DHS will provide only one reduced fee per Form I-589 filing fee paid. If a Form I-485 filing with a $50 reduced fee is denied, USCIS will not accept future discounted I-485 filings from the same applicant. That is because DHS anticipates a one-to-one relationship between the fees collected and discounts provided. If an approved principal asylee were to file multiple Forms I-485 with the reduced fee, it could illogically result in the $50 fee for Form I-589 causing a net revenue loss to USCIS. DHS will not deviate from its primary objective of this final rule to set fees at a level necessary to recover estimated full cost by allowing multiple I-485 reduced fee filings. Unaccompanied alien children in removal proceedings who filed Form I-589 with USCIS, and thus did not pay the $50 Form I-589 fee, are not eligible to file Form I-485 with the reduced fee.
Although there is a lot of text here, the main point seems to be this: “DHS explained that USCIS has experienced a continuous, sizeable increase in the affirmative asylum backlog over the last several years.“
Translation: There are too many people to process! Let’s make it so there are fewer people to process!
That goes against all the claims DHS has made that this fee is not to serve as a deterrent.
More in tomorrow’s post.