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Boston marks U.S Constitution and citizenship day by leading Amicus brief against USCIS fee increase

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Published by:

Immigrant Advancement

Cities are urging the court to block application fee increases for naturalization.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is marking U.S. Constitution and Citizenship Day this year by announcing the City of Boston together with 33 American cities and counties and with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), submitted an amicus brief in the Project Citizenship lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit follows a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy that would make it more expensive for U.S. residents to apply for naturalization as well as other statuses and benefits. 

Starting on October 2, USCIS is nearly doubling the cost of applying for naturalization from $725 to $1,200 and eliminating the fee waiver for almost all low-income residents. USCIS is also increasing the permanent residence (green card) application fee and implementing an asylum application fee, making the United States one of four countries to do so. 

The City of Boston is asking the federal court to stop this new rule from going into effect.

"These fee increases go against the values America was founded on," said Mayor Walsh. "People come to the U.S. for a better life for themselves and their families, whether that's 400 years ago or yesterday. This new rule creates a wealth test to be an American, and citizenship must not be reserved for those who can afford it."

There are about nine million people in the U.S. eligible for citizenship, more than 30,000 of them are in Boston. The City has invested in naturalization assistance since the Mayor's first year in office in 2014. Every year, Boston celebrates Constitution Day on September 17 by partnering with Project Citizenship to host the largest annual citizenship workshop in New England, when more than 400 community volunteers, law students and pro bono attorneys help hundreds of people with their citizenship application for free. To date, the City has helped 1,815 become citizens, and last year alone 59% of applicants qualified for the low-income fee waiver. 

The amicus brief highlights how local governments have invested in supporting the naturalization process, how naturalized citizens benefit from the support, and how naturalization increases the civic and economic health and resilience of local communities for all residents. The brief argues these fee increases send a message to low-income lawful permanent residents that full civic participation is only reserved for those who can afford it.

"Being American is not about how much money you have or the color of your skin," said the Mayor. "Being American is about making a commitment to this country, to choosing a life in our communities and enjoying the rights and liberties promised in the Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution."

The amicus brief was submitted by the City of Boston, together with Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Boise, ID; Brownsville, TX; Cambridge, MA; Carson, CA; Chelsea, MA; Chicago, IL; Cook County, IL; Davis, CA; Dayton, OH; Denver, CO; Lawrence, MA; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County, CA; Lynn, MA; Malden, MA; McAllen, TX; Melrose, MA; Metropolitan Area Planning Council, MA; Minneapolis, MN; Montgomery County, MD; New York, NY; Newton, MA; Oakland, CA; Palm Springs, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Saint Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Somerville, MA; Stamford, CT; Tacoma, WA; and the US Conference of Mayors. To read the amicus brief, visit here.       

The City of Boston also signed onto two similar amicus briefs linked here and here.

ABOUT THE MAYOR'S OFFICE FOR IMMIGRANT ADVANCEMENT

The Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA) strives to strengthen the ability of immigrants to fully and equally participate in economic, civic, social, and cultural life in Boston. MOIA also promotes the recognition and public understanding of the contributions of immigrants to the City. To learn more, visit boston.gov/immigrants.