AILA: Increased USCIS Fees Will Not Do The Job

April 15, 2004
Contact: Julia Hendrix (202) 216-2404

Increased Fees Will Not Do the Job

Statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on USCIS Fee Increase

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureau of the Department of Homeland Security today issued regulations which will increase some immigration application fees by over 55 percent, becoming effective April 30, 2004. Contrary to a statement by USCIS Director Eduardo Aguirre that increased fees will enhance USCIS' service, fees will not solve the current problems that USCIS faces. While Mr. Aguirre has indicated that this fee increase will help them to meet their current processing challenges, in fact the increase will allow them to barely continue to tread water. What are needed are direct Congressional appropriations to supplement user fees, a long-standing position held by AILA. Adjudications are as much in the national interest as enforcement, and thus merit this direct and reliable source of funding. USCIS services play a vital role in our nation's national security by identifying who is allowed into the country and who uses USCIS resources. Fee-based funding does not work for American security, American families, or for American businesses.

Everyone is aware of the steady decline in USCIS' services. Mr. Aguirre has acknowledged those problems, but his solution goes in the wrong direction, flying in the face of what should have been learned in the past years of processing backlogs. These backlogs today have reached crisis proportions, delaying business transactions and separating families for months and years. In addition, the bureau continues to waste its limited resources revisiting issues already resolved and harassing honest petitioners with requests for paperwork unrelated to their immigration eligibility. USCIS' newly implemented toll-free number, the public's only available avenue to resolve government errors and problems, has been a failure in that regard, with immigrants and attorneys alike highly critical of the contractor-run program. Making matters worse, the fee increases will be used to fund a study on the effectiveness of the 1-800 number service - which we already know to be a failure - to pay for costs of court cases the Service has lost, and to fund support positions that previously were funded through direct Congressional appropriations.

AILA calls on Congress and the Administration to learn from the past. They need to step up to the plate and change how they fund adjudications by directly appropriating funds to supplement user fees. The current funding system is deeply flawed and needs to be changed. Increased immigration application fees will not do the job. Fixing an overburdened system needs serious attention and serious funding.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the DHS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04041561.