Tag Archives: Vote 2020

Joe Biden is coherent if not downright presidential

The other morning, Joe Biden had a roundtable discussion with veterans at a Tampa community college, and it may have been the most underrated event of the campaign season.

In the roughly hour and a half meeting, Biden didn’t answer rapidfire questions; rather, he took time to address each person’s point. I’m not used to seeing this outside civil discourse (I know! I miss those days, too!), and it’s entirely foreign to me when it comes to presidential primary winners in advance of the general election.

Biden provided no material for soundbites, either, which have been a staple of campaigns and apparently had shrunk to nine seconds in 1988.

Nine seconds?

The way Biden addressed people in the room, it seemed as though he had forgotten that the cameras were there at all, and I felt like I was able to spy on a private meeting he’d have while running this country. And, to me, what I heard was awesome: He was prepared, he was confident, he was humble, and he cared.

In some cases, he wasn’t afraid to say he didn’t have an answer immediately but would consider what was being said.

It is a welcome break from Trump, who has reportedly boasted about driving the media crazy intentionally as a game and is no doubt an entertainer.

Also, have you noticed how Trump’s hands don’t veer far from his body when he speaks? It looks super weird until you cut off the sides of the image to limit the picture to the old 4:3 aspect ratio. He’s been on TV so long that now he stays in frame even when he’s speaking at a rally (and even though we now have the wider 16:9 TVs).

Those who are used to the entertainer approach easily could see the Biden roundtable as boring and slow, and many comments reflect that. But I listened to what he was saying and how he came to answer what was asked. I was pleasantly surprised. He provided background to his answers so they made sense. And this is really important when questions are asked that are too narrow in scope for a brief answer to be useful.

Imagine you’re not used to making spicy food and are asking a friend advice on how much chili powder to use. If your friend gives you an answer, you might find out that your mouth is ablaze. But if your friend explains the difference between chile powder and chili powder and the effects of jalapeño peppers and habanero peppers that you might want to consider but didn’t know to, but that you should probably add some and then taste it and then adjust because it’s a preference thing, you may react poorly because that’s a long-winded answer with no conclusion when you were just asking for an amount, or you may be thankful because the longer answer enabled you to enjoy what you’re making.

A question about Trump’s proposed end of social security yielded an answer that started, “This is both simple and complicated,” and then went further.

He first established a baseline of understanding: Employers and employees split the funding for social security through paychecks.

Then he explained his experience with economic stimulus during his vice presidency and how Trump’s promised elimination of the payroll tax for social security is a terrible idea.

So detractors will say he gets lost, but those who listen will understand that Joe Biden’s approach is one based in logic. And ignoring the cameras completely and having an honest discussion is what we need right now.

Joe Biden does have his flaws, but there certainly are more reasons to vote for him than that he’s anyone but Trump.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-8-20

Day 7 of this fee-on-asylum-seekers series.

The first comment of today’s post is kind of snarky, and it makes me a little happy that snarky made the cut:

Comment: One commenter stated that USCIS is promising the same inadequate service it has been providing in the past few years and is asking immigrant and refugee families to pay more to not get their applications processed.”

The comment then addresses a fee change schedule under Bush 43 that affirms the asylum seekers shouldn’t be charged.

But DHS, as it has been doing, responds that they’re allowed to charge a fee and that it will help out with the backlog.

While they say that the $50 will offset some costs, we’ve well established that the amount is less than 14% of those costs. Also we’re back to slowing down applicants by charging a fee.

They nod to the snark by acknowledging the delays and by posting that part of the comment.

Skipping down to the next non-repeat, a commenter points out an issue with an asylum-seeker not being able to apply for the work authorization (because there’s a mandatory delay of a year until eligibility to file a work authorization form. Since the person won’t be able to make money legally, illegally performed work could be grounds for deportation.

You know, unless that person is financially stable. In that case, the person totally can take time to hang out for a year without employment.

But DHS has a simple solution: don’t work illegally.

This type of stonewalling is not what we need from our government. This is a cruel response to rational, reasonable discourse. Let’s get this approach out of the Executive Branch in this election.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-7-20

Now in the sixth post of this series about how this country has recently started charging asylum seekers to enter this country, we get comments that I will summarize but that you can click on to read on your own.

First off is a comment about how there shouldn’t be fees to seek asylum because asylum seekers work and pay taxes.

I think this is a terrible argument. An easy rebuttal is that if that were the case, there should be no fees. For anything. And no restrictions. Like if someone comes from Europe as a tourist, that person should not be able to work as long as taxes are paid and the money earned is spent in this country. That’s crazy talk. The idea of this is that asylum seekers are special.

The response agrees with my point by starting out with: “DHS acknowledges that asylum seekers invest in their educations and pay taxes like other immigrants do.” But these aren’t the same as other immigrants. These aren’t people moving here because it’s a thing they want to do because they think it would be cool to live in America. They’re escaping for fear of not being safe. There’s no other option for them.

It continues with the same old line: “USCIS has experienced a continuous, sizeable (sic) increase in the affirmative asylum backlog and explored ways to alleviate the pressure that the asylum workload places on USCIS.” And this, of course, sounds like if we put a fee on it and make it tough, fewer people will want to file new cases. Yet they maintain fees are not being imposed as a deterrent.

The next comment is about gender-based violence. Women whose right are limited in their countries flee to this one because it’s their only hope of survival. This relates to things including sex trafficking and domestic abuse. Having to pay a fee would make it impossible to pay a fee when they have control over no money.

But it gets worse than that because financial plight is a way for the asylum seekers to remain victims all the way through the immigration process: The $50 fee can be paid by smugglers and traffickers as a way to extort (whose etymology is essentially arm-twisting) those seeking asylum. We don’t need that kind of quid pro quo or even to worry about that kind of quid pro quo.

But the DHS responds that it’s just $50–an amount that isn’t prohibitively expensive. And that’s a big problem with this entire process. A $50 fee is a clear barrier to those who cannot afford it while being an amount that’s palatable to the public at large. And this is new under Donald Trump. But at least now we know the cost of the process for each case: $366.

I’ve yet to be convinced that this fee is a good idea. And a recoup of less than 14% of the cost seems so negligible that it’s unreasonable to demand it.

More tomorrow and with the new summary format so you can click through to the full text.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-6-20

Comments about the new $50 asylum fee introduced this year under the Tump administration continue in this fifth installment of this series.

So far I have yet to be convinced by the Department of Homeland Security that charging people a fee to seek asylum in this country is something I should support. Also that that joining Iran as one of four countries that directly charge a fee (not including Russia that allows for free entry but requires a medical assessment that does cost money) is not giving me confidence that we should do this.

So the next comment raised:

Comment: With regard to the Form I-589 fee and the fee for an initial Form I-765 filed by an asylum applicant, commenters stated:
-Asylum seekers should not have to pay for an asylum application or an associated work permit because they are not authorized to work for months once in the United States and would have no way of earning money to pay for the fees.
-Asylum seekers in detention, who earn at most $1 a day would have no way to pay the $50 fee.
-Asylum seekers are not allowed to work more than 4 hours a day and are thus unable to pay increased fees.
-Asylum seekers who are poor or need to “quickly flee situations of peril or harm” would be harmed by the asylum fee proposal, and that such individuals would not be able to earn enough money to pay asylum fees once in detention.
-Asylum seekers are often minors with no means to support themselves and therefore cannot afford an asylum fee.

My analysis:

First off, Form I-765 is the Application for Employment Authorization. The fee for this form has gone up this year by more than 34% to $550 from $410. Those who seek asylum cannot work without authorization, so unless they have supporters who are here already, they’re kind of stuck if they want to do things legally.

Also asylum seekers are only recently barred from even applying for work permits at the same time they file for asylum. Now they have to wait a year until they can get a job legally.

I am uncertain but am guessing that those who are in detention are because they came here illegally but are seeking asylum, which is allowed by our government. If they are eligible to work, it would be at a rate that would make $50 about impossible to raise alone. I encourage someone more knowledgeable in this area to help me with info in this area if I am mistaken.

This all seems like creating barrier after barrier to make sure that people can’t come in or don’t want to come in or can’t stay. And if they have legitimate claim to be here, we can adopt them.

Response from the Department of Homeland Security:

Response: DHS acknowledges the commenters’ concerns about asylum seekers’ ability to pay the fees for the asylum application and associated EAD. DHS considered the effect of the fees on asylum seekers and believes the fees would not impose an unreasonable burden on applicants or prevent asylum seekers from seeking protection or EAD. DHS also acknowledges that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, provides a range of protections for unaccompanied alien children. As such, DHS excluded unaccompanied alien children in removal proceedings, a particularly vulnerable population, from the imposition of the $50 asylum application fee.
The services that USCIS provides at no cost or below cost impacts the final fees imposed on other fee-paying applicants. However, DHS seeks to make the USCIS fee schedule more equitable for all applicants and petitioners in this final rule. Therefore, DHS declines to make changes in this final rule in response to these comments.

My analysis:

They maintain it’s not too expensive. Just straight disagree. They refuse even to acknowledge any of the work eligibility points.

And to say that below-cost services means that they have to shift the expenses elsewhere? First of all, do they? We have a lot of government programs that only are intentionally money-losers. Like the NEA. Sure, some people are against funding the NEA, and I probably don’t appreciate everything the NEA funds, but this year they granted $20,000 to the Appalachian Artisan Center of Kentucky for Metal Works for the Modern Muse. It teaches kids how to be blacksmiths. I think that’s really cool. But also that’s 400 asylum seekers. I’m not saying take away that award, I’m saying we don’t have to recover all costs.

Second, if they have to make up for it somewhere else, let them do that. I’m still against any fee for asylum seekers.

More tomorrow.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-5-20

Yesterday I began my analysis of public comments and responses by the Department of Homeland Security about the new $50 fee for asylum seekers, which is up from $0. Today I continue the analyses of comments and responses.

A brief recap of the process, though I recommend reading the related posts: Proposed changes to some laws are open for comments from the public before the laws take effect. The government can use the comments to make changes to the proposal or say why the comments don’t matter. So far, the Department of Homeland Security has revealed that the $50 fee on asylum seekers is to let their employees recover from the backlog of applications, which sounds a lot like they’re trying to get in the way of letting people in.

Now for the new stuff (with links added by me):

Comment: Additional commenters on the asylum fee generally opposed the proposed fees for asylum indicating that the proposal runs counter to U.S. ideals, and stated:
-The United States has no precedent in international law to charge for asylum, the fee does not support the humanitarian interests of the United States, would be against the values of the United States and Congressional intent, and our moral and constitutional obligation to provide sanctuary to those who need it.
-The United States would become one of only four countries to charge such a fee if DHS implemented the proposal.
-Processing asylum requests is a fundamental right guaranteed by international agreements to which the United States adheres.
-The United States should endeavor to resolve, rather than exacerbate, humanitarian crises and the U.S. is required under domestic and international law to provide refuge to people fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States.
-Significant changes to the conditions of asylum services should be carried out by Congress, and not through administrative processes.
-Charging a fee for asylum requests is discrimination and an attempt to block legal immigration of people of color and/or non-wealthy backgrounds.
-The right to seek and to enjoy asylum from persecution is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and supported by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
-The United States is obligated to accept asylum seekers under international and domestic law, and therefore should not refuse asylum seekers because of an inability to pay the fee. Thus, the proposed asylum fees would be a dereliction of legal duty and violate the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prevents signatory countries from taking any action that would “in any matter whatsoever” expel or return a refugee to a place where his or her life or freedom would be threatened.”
-The creation of an asylum fee suggests that the United States will shy away from international problems rather than confront them.
-One commenter said that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States is obligated by international law to accept refugees and accord them certain rights and benefits, such as access to courts.
-A fee for asylum violates the INA and that Congress did not intend to authorize fees for asylum applicants, but instead intended that the cost services to asylum seekers should be paid by fees from the IEFA.

My analysis:

I’ve mentioned a lot of these things in the past few posts, but I’m happy there are new things for me to consider.

The idea that these changes should be carried out by the legislative branch and not the executive branch is important. Kicking this decision to Congress means slowing it way down. However, if this is a rider in a bill, maybe we don’t get to see it at all before it becomes law, and it may be harder to repeal if there’s no set expiration. I’m not a legal scholar, so if you’ve got a legal background, please, please weigh in on this.

Regarding the United Nations points, those likely fall on deaf ears, based on what Donald Trump thinks of the UN.

The Department of Homeland Security Responds (emphases mine):

Response: DHS disagrees with commenters’ assertions that an asylum fee violates the INA, that there is no precedent in international law for charging a fee for asylum applications, and that charging a fee is discriminatory and against the values, morals, and Constitution of the United States. DHS also disagrees that the United States is required to provide asylum to those fleeing violence and seeking protection, as the United States’ non-refoulement obligations are met by the statutory withholding of removal provisions at INA section 241(b)(3). Asylum is a discretionary benefit available to those who meet the definition of a refugee and who are not otherwise ineligible.
Although the United States is a party to the 1967 U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1967 Refugee Protocol”), which incorporates Articles 2 through 34 of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1951 Refugee Convention”), the Protocol is not self-executing. See INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407, 428 n.22 (1984). The asylum statute at INA section 208 and withholding of removal statute at INA section 241(b)(3) constitute the U.S. implementation of international treaty obligations related to asylum seekers. The asylum provisions of the INA do not preclude the imposition of a filing fee for asylum applications. INA section 208(d)(3), 8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(3) specifically authorizes the Attorney General to impose a fee for the consideration of an asylum application that is less than the estimated cost of adjudicating the application.

Furthermore, DHS believes that the asylum fee may arguably be constrained in amount, but a fee is not prohibited by the 1951 Refugee Convention, 1967 Refugee Protocol, United States constitution, or domestic implementing law. Article 29(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol, as incorporated by reference, refers to the imposition of fees on those seeking protection, and limits “fiscal charges” to not higher than those charged to nationals of a given country for similar services, but does not bar the imposition of such fiscal charges. The $50 fee is reasonably aligned with the fees charged to United States nationals for other immigration benefit requests. Thus, a $50 fee for asylum applications is in line with international and domestic law.

DHS also considered the asylum fees charged by other nations, including Australia, Fiji, and Iran. A $50 fee is in line with the fees charged by these other nations. DHS further believes that the $50 fee would not require an applicant to spend an unreasonable amount of time saving to pay the fee.

DHS declines to make changes in this final rule in response to these comments.

My analysis:

It’s true that asylum is discretionary. Determination of eligibility is a judgment call. Are the claims legitimate? Are the claims accurate? Are the claims valid? Someone has to determine that.

The INA section referenced does allow for a fee. It doesn’t advise for there to be a fee, but it’s not against the rules that are in place.

But then we’re back to how reasonable the $50 fee is. My conclusion is that it is unreasonable. See yesterday’s post for the analysis of this first question.

Australia is our friend, but they even charge us a fee to visit their country. I’m skipping over Fiji because I don’t feel like researching them right now. But when we put our country in the same category as Iran, which has all kinds of human rights violations, that doesn’t make me too comfortable.

And then the DHS finishes their response by saying too bad.

More tomorrow.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-4-20

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.

My analysis:

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.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-3-20

Second installment of the series about asylum seekers and how the new fee structure makes it harder for eligible people to seek asylum. This is intended to be a daily series.

Let’s start out with USCIS’s description of eligible asylum seekers from the instructions for Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal:

To qualify for asylum, you must establish that you are a refugee who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or last habitual residence if you have no nationality, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. This means that you must establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for your persecution or why you fear persecution. (See section 208 of the INA; 8 CFR sections 208 and 1208, et seq.)

Essentially you’re running for your life because the place where you were does not subscribe to the freedoms we have here as described in terms that sound a lot like our first amendment.

My personal take is that this is a reminder that we shouldn’t be complacent. That is to say that we have a right to challenge overwhelming beliefs, and our country is strong enough to be able to withstand criticism, change in cases it’s right to, and respond where it isn’t. And even if change for the better doesn’t happen immediately, open discussion/expression of dissatisfaction leads to future growth.

I mean Susan B. Anthony was a suffragette, and women didn’t get the right to vote until decades after she was dead. She was allowed to speak up, and it’s good she did so.

People who are escaping a situation that isn’t ours who would have been protected here may bring along with them ideas from outside our system that will make our country better. And if the ideas would make our country worse, and we’re strong as a country, not only are we not forced to buy in, but if those people do things that are against our rules, they are subject to the same punitive actions we are.

(Of course this assumes uniform application of legal action, which we know isn’t a real thing, but this asylum series is based in theory with acknowledgment of reality.)

With those things established, we can go into this new $50 fee in more depth.

As it stands right now, our country has joined only three others in the world that charge a fee for asylum seekers. The others are Iran, Fiji, and Australia. Russia charges a fee for a mandatory medical evaluation, but if we have to compare our country to Russia, something has gone horribly awry.

So what’s the rationale for putting a fee on asylum now?

DHS says (emphases mine):

DHS proposed adjustments to USCIS’ fee schedule to ensure full cost recovery. DHS did not target any particular group or class of individuals, or propose changes with the intent to deter requests from low-income immigrants seeking family unity or deterring requests from any immigrants based on their financial or family situation or to block individuals from accessing immigrant benefits. With limited exceptions as noted in the NPRM and this final rule, DHS establishes its fees at the level estimated to represent the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services, including the cost of relevant overhead and similar services provided at no or reduced charge to asylum applicants or other immigrants. This rule is consistent with DHS’s legal authorities. See INA section 286(m), 8 U.S.C. 1356(m). DHS proposed changes in fee waiver policies to ensure that those who benefit from immigration benefits pay their fair share of costs, consistent with the beneficiary-pays principle as described in the Government Accountability Office report number GAO-08-386SP.24

In certain instances, DHS deviates from the beneficiary-pays principle to establish fees that do not represent the estimated full cost of adjudication. For example, DHS proposed a $50 fee for Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, when filed with USCIS. This fee deviates from the beneficiary-pays principle by holding the fee well below the estimated cost of adjudication. The $50 fee for affirmative asylum filings is not intended to recover the estimated full cost of adjudication. Instead, it is intended to limit the increase of other fees that must otherwise be raised to cover the estimated full cost of adjudicating asylum applications. Fee adjustments are not intended to advance any policy objectives related to influencing the race or nationality of immigrants, deterring immigration and naturalization, or affecting voting.

24 GAO, Federal User Fees: A Design Guide (May 29, 2008), available at https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-386SP. (last accessed Feb. 24, 2020).

This has been a recurring theme from Trump: We’re making bad business deals, and I’m going to make everyone pay us. Whether it’s stating that Saudi Arabia agreed to pay us to use our military as though we’re for hire and not only for the public good or to get Mexico to pay for the wall or prompt NATO nations to pay for defense.

But if the “$50 fee for affirmative asylum filings is not intended to recover the estimated full cost of adjudication,” why charge for it at all?

This is Not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-2-20

I must start this off with a disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and I have no official training in immigration law.

Recently I mounted my digital TV antenna to get it off a table, and when I got the TV to scan for all the channels, I ended up on something that turned into Korean programming later, including local news dubbed in Korean. I had kept the TV on in the background while working on other things.

I looked up at one point and saw that the new fee schedule from USCIS had been released. Some immigration filing fees had gone way, way up, and a few had gone down. Immediately my reaction was one of frustration. We were taught in school about how tolerant this country is, and if it weren’t so tolerant, the three grandparents of mine who weren’t born in this country probably wouldn’t have gotten in. And the one grandparent who was born here probably wouldn’t have been if they hadn’t let her parents in.

So I started to look more into the fee changes, and while I have issue with a lot of what’s in there, the one I have the biggest problem with is the fee for people seeking asylum.

The fee increased by $50.

You might think that that’s not nearly as bad as the $1230 fee increase (up 346% to $1585 from $355) for form N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes, which OMG! But I think it’s dramatically worse.

The $50 increase for I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding
of Removal created a fee where there used to be none.

And it makes sense that there used to be no fee. If you’re running for your life and are doing whatever you can to get over the border, are you really going to have $50?

Probably not.

Now, this is going to be a new series because USCIS posted not just the new fees but the responses to questions about the public after the fees were proposed and before they went into effect.

I will be going through those and writing about them.

Lou DeJoy of One Man’s Desiring 9-2-20

Update on the shipment to me from Brooklyn!

Nil. No movement. Still received by the post office but not yet accepted.

So I’ll continue with the topic of blue box removal by the USPS.

Yesterday I walked to drop something in the mailbox. On the corner of Beverly Drive and Gregory Way, there had been four blue collection boxes. Now there is only one.

So I looked at Google Maps to see when they had been moved. For those who are unaware of the Google Maps feature to go back in time, it exists. In the upper-left corner of street view there’s a clock face with a drop down arrow. If you click that, you can see the street view photographs from the past. So I did that.

I saw that at the beginning of the Obama presidency, there were five boxes: an Express Mail box and four non-Express Mail blue boxes.

Shortly after Obama took office, the Express Mail one vanished. Express Mail has gone through some overhaul, including the rebranding as Priority Mail Express, too, but that’s another topic.

These four existed for the duration of Obama’s two terms. They also existed during Trump’s first term through the midterm elections.

After the midterms, three disappeared.

Now, there are people who point out that the Obama administration allowed for thousands of collection boxes to be removed over the course of eight years. Some of those people use that fact to explain away Trump’s action as though the outrage must be anti-Republican sentiment. This argument also assumes that people who are outraged at what’s going on now aren’t upset about the closure of sorting centers, etc. that have slowed down mail delivery. That, too, is flawed.

When I got a post office box, I sent a postcard to myself that I mailed from the post office it was going to be delivered to in an effort to make sure that my mail was being delivered successfully to it rather than being forwarded to the prior owner’s new address. It took many days for it to arrive. I would have preferred that to be faster.

But the thing most wrong about the finger-pointing at the prior administration as an excuse for what the current administration is doing is that we have fewer boxes left to remove.

It’s like if you go to a party (remember parties?), and Bobby takes half the cake and throws it on the ground. Aw, man, Bobby! OK, but there’s still enough cake. Then Dave takes a third of the cake and stuffs it into his pockets. I don’t imagine anyone will come to the defense of Dave by saying, “It’s OK that there’s only a 1/6 of the cake left to split between everyone because Dave was justified in taking 1/3 of the cake after Bobby rendered half the cake inedible.” Everyone who is neither Dave nor Bobby gets screwed.

The problem is not simply Louis DeJoy. Louis DeJoy is a symptom. You can say post hoc ergo propter hoc all you want, but I find it difficult to believe that these aren’t priorities of the Trump administration overall. Both DeJoy and Trump have got to go.

The remaining mailbox. Also: Is last pickup at 4:30 or 5?
Boxes were removed on either side.
The corner in September 2008. Yes, this is during the Bush Administration, but I think the Express Mail box remained a little longer.
The Express Mail box had been removed by February 2011.
The other boxes were still there July 2014.
And they were there September 2017
And still there in April 2018
By March 2019, there was but one Collection Box.

Lou De Joy of One Man’s Desiring 8-28-20

Here’s the update on the progress of my Amazon order that was sent by Media Mail from Brooklyn:

August 26, 2020 at 6:19 pm (EDT)
Shipment Received, Package Acceptance Pending
BROOKLYN, NY 11256

If that looks familiar, that’s because it is. There has been no progress since yesterday’s post. It’s still in their possession, but they haven’t moved it.

Meanwhile a real false narrative going on is that voting by mail is unreliable and can have tons of fraud. Slow progress with normal packages–and I know that Media Mail is cheaper and slower, but for it to be sitting there not yet accepted is unusual in my experience–leads to decreased trust in the postal system.

In the House Oversight Committee hearing the other day, Jim Jordan pointed out that the outcome of Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney’s primary race was not determined on the night of the election but many weeks later.

While a normal person would come to the conclusion that the necessity to get the count right far eclipses the need for a result the night of the election and that there is an intentional delay between when the votes happen and when the results matter. In this case the primary was on June 23, 2020, but the general election isn’t until November 3, which is a full 19 weeks in between. Despite the delay, there still is a buffer of three months.

In the case of the presidential election, there are more than 11 weeks in between the deadline to cast votes and the inauguration. That’s a lot of time.

Now, back to Jim Jordan’s logic: This delay in getting the result isn’t about getting the count right, it’s about making people crazy. It’s about creating uncertainty and messing with people’s minds. And during such a delay, maybe there’s some funny business with the ballots.

This is madness. This assumes the Democrats have possession of the ballots or can introduce new ballots. Conspiracy theories are dividing our country. We need a leader who promotes unity. We need to avoid people who put their major supporters who don’t have the proper qualifications for their high places (e.g., DeJoy, Sondland, Jared) in an effort to get away with things that are shady (e.g., voter suppression, abuse of Volodymyr Zelensky, everything, respectively). We need someone who can welcome the people who disagree.