Trump is hiking up the price to become an American. It’s callous harassment.

Trump is hiking up the price to become an American. It’s callous harassment.

Originally published by The Washington Post

IN ITS boundless distaste for immigrants, the Trump administration is especially loath to admit newcomers with modest bank balances. In that spirit, it is lowering the boom not just on refugees and immigrants who might need public assistance but also on foreign-born residents of the United States who are applying for green cards, citizenship, work permits and other means of remaining legally in the country. For those groups and others, the administration has weaponized the immigration system’s fine print.

It is doing so by jacking up fees required to file an array of immigration forms. Some of the new prices would be punishing for many Americans, let alone for migrants who might be in detention awaiting adjudication of a deportation notice. Others amount to callous harassment.

In the latter category is a proposed $50 fee assessed on asylum seekers, many of whom are seeking refuge from dangerous or desperate conditions at home. In imposing that levy, the United States would become just the fourth country to charge migrants who, in compliance with international law and treaties, come seeking protection. Translation: Need emergency help? Cash on the barrel.

Foreigners already living in this country would face much higher costs. They include legal permanent residents who, when applying to become citizens, would pay $1,170 under the administration’s proposed fees, an 83 percent increase. Young immigrants who wish to renew their status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program for unauthorized young migrants known as “dreamers,” brought to this country as children, would now be hit with a fee of nearly $800, a 55 percent increase. And immigrants determined to appeal their deportation orders would pay nearly $1,000 for the privilege, an 800 percent increase.

Beyond the shabby optics of the world’s wealthiest country shaking down hard-up individuals, the administration often adds insult to injury by providing poor service for the money it demands. For example, in recent years, naturalization applications from immigrants hoping to become citizens have fallen and processing times have increased. Now, by hiking fees for those applicants, the administration would charge more money to provide worse service for fewer customers. That’s not a model taught at business schools.

The price hikes, which may be hard for a future, more immigrant-friendly administration to reverse, are in line with President Trump’s stated preference for wealthier immigrants — he is fond of Norwegians — and apparent disdain for poorer ones. For years, many indigent migrants qualified for waivers if they could ill afford application filing fees; now waivers are often unavailable.

The administration defends some of the new fees as innocuous moves to stay abreast of inflation. In fact, the hikes in many cases — such as the 800 percent price increase for deportation appeals — are multiples higher than inflation since that fee was previously raised, in 1986. The real goal, it seems, is no different from that of so many of the administration’s countless tweaks to the immigration system: to drive away most of those who aspire to become new Americans.

 

unitedwestay

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