Two lawsuits were filed recently challenging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee hikes and related actions:

AILA/Sidley lawsuit. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Sidley Austin LLP filed a lawsuit on August 20, 2020, challenging the legality of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule increasing the costs of applying for many immigration benefits. The suit seeks an emergency injunction to prevent the fee rule from taking effect on October 2, 2020.

The complaint states that the final rule is unlawful because it was proposed under Kevin McAleenan and issued under Chad Wolf, “both of whom assumed the title of Acting Secretary of [DHS] without constitutional or statutory authority.” The complaint states that the final rule “is therefore void and without effect.”

The complaint notes that for low-income applicants, the final rule increases the cost of applying to naturalize, in some cases from $0 to $1,170, and charges a non-waivable fee for asylum applicants for the first time in U.S. history “even though the fee will deter vulnerable people from seeking statutory protection.” The complaint states that the final rule also requires asylum seekers to pay $580 to obtain their first employment authorization, and calls for an unexplained budget increase of 21 percent.

Immigrant advocacy groups lawsuit. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Ayuda, Inc., and Casa de Maryland, Inc., filed a lawsuit on August 21, 2020, challenging the new fee increase rule. The complaint notes that in addition to raising fees, in some cases by exorbitant amounts, DHS eliminated fee waivers for all but a few narrow categories of immigrants. “DHS expects that its new rule will force immigrants to pay a combined total of about $1 billion in extra fees to USCIS per year, to fund operations that DHS does not explain and to raise money against an outdated estimated budget,” the complaint states.

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