Trump administration proposes charging for asylum applications, joining only 3 other countries

The Trump administration on Friday proposed a charge on asylum applications — the first time the US government has charged for the form — as well as an 83% fee increase for the naturalization form, according to a proposed rule issued in the Federal Register late in the afternoon.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency in the Department of Homeland Security that administers and adjudicates immigration benefits, introduced a $50 fee for asylum applications, arguing that the department is seeking to “alleviate the pressure” that the growing asylum backlog places on the system.

The administration, according to the regulation, considered asylum fees charged by other countries. The Department of Homeland Security found that three countries charge a fee “for initial applications for asylum or refugee protection”: Iran, Fiji, and Australia.

USCIS primarily depends on application fees. The agency is required to conduct biennial fee reviews and recommend adjustments, according to a USCIS press release.

“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,” said acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli in a statement.

Still, the latest move to charge a fee for asylum applications could prove to be yet another challenge for migrants seeking refugee in the US. Many Central American migrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border over the last year have sought asylum. The Trump administration has introduced a series of polices aimed at dramatically limiting who’s eligible for asylum in the US.

But the regulation filed Friday goes beyond asylum. It also proposes increasing the fee to apply for US citizenship from $640 to $1,170, an 83% increase.

“In crafting prior fee rules, DHS reasoned that setting the Form N-400 fee at an amount less than its estimated costs and shifting those costs to other fee payers was appropriate in order to promote naturalization and immigrant integration,” the rule reads.

The proposed rule also includes an increase in renewal fees for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program that shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, and notes an intent to transfer more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another agency within DHS.

The proposed fee rule will be posted to the Federal Register on Nov. 14.

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