The Trump administration on Friday, Nov. 8, rolled out a proposal to increase fees on immigrants filing applications in the United States, including those seeking asylum.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said adjustments to the fee schedule with the average increase of 21 percent “are necessary to recover the full operating costs.” If the agency continues to operate at their current level, it would be underfunded by approximately $1.3 billion a year.

If enacted, the proposed rule will increase citizenship fees to $1,170 up from $640. Asylum seekers who are looking to apply for affirmative asylum applications filed from within the United States would be charged $50 for applications under the rule. 

The proposed rule would also increase the two-year renewal fees for participations in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA recipients would pay an additional $275 to renew their status, in addition to the $495 required for filing. 

The proposed rule immediately drew backlash from immigration advocates. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told BuzzFeed News, which first reported on the proposal that the rule “marks a dark chapter in America’s history as a place of refuge.”

“It’s an unprecedented weaponization of government fees,” said Doug Rand, an Obama White House official who co-founded a company to help immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system.

USCIS officials said the proposed rule was necessary to help prevent the agency from a shortfall that poses a risk of degrading USCIS operations.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures, just like a business, and make adjustments based on that analysis. This proposed adjustment in fees would ensure more applicants cover the true cost of their applications and minimizes subsidies from an already over-extended system,” USCIS acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.

“Furthermore, the adjudication of immigration applications and petitions requires in-depth screening, incurring costs that must be covered by the agency, and this proposal accounts for our operational needs and better aligns our fee schedule with the costs of processing each request,” he said.

Friday’s proposal is the latest move of the administration that sought to overhaul the immigration system and restrict access to asylum protections as President Donald Trump has committed to stopping the unprecedented crisis of illegal immigration. In September, 52,546 aliens were apprehended at the southern border, marking the lowest numbers in fiscal year 2019, according to the White House.

“We have taken very unprecedented action to stop the flow of illegal immigration,” said President Trump. 

The proposal will be published in the Federal Register and open to public comment on Nov. 14, and its effective date won’t be public until then.

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