Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez: Proposed Rule on Fee Waivers Could Open the Door to Citizenship For Eligible Hard-Working Immigrants

“The new calculation is going to mean more of those who are already eligible can finally take the step and apply for citizenship”

Chicago –(ENEWSPF)–May 3, 2016.  Today, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez praised a new proposed rule to be published tomorrow in the Federal Register that announces new guidelines for fee waivers for naturalization applications.  Under the proposed rule, applicants whose income is between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty level can apply for a fee waiver that reduces the fee in half.  This proposed rule will make a reduced price accessible to many more applicants.  The current full fee (including biometrics) is $680, an expense that prevents some eligible applicants from applying and going through the English, civics and biometric/background examinations required for citizenship.  A 6.6% increase in the fee for naturalization applications is also included in the proposed rule, a $45 increase, but that compares favorably to an overall 21% fee increase across all services and applications in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) proposed fee structure.

“Citizenship should be attainable for those who are eligible because we want immigrants to become citizens and the fee waiver policy will help,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez.  “Citizenship says to America that you are all-in; that you are fully vested and a full partner; that you are willing to shoulder the responsibilities and enjoy the privileges of citizenship.  Whether you can be a U.S. citizen should never be a matter of whether you are wealthy or not.”

Over many years and in his advocacy for deportation relief and other administrative changes to how current immigration law is applied – advocacy that led to deferred action programs like DACA and DAPA – Congressman Gutiérrez has steadfastly fought for fee reductions and waivers to keep citizenship within reach of working-class immigrant families.

Improved access to naturalization was among the administrative actions announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in November 2014.  There are an estimated 8.8 million permanent residents – immigrants with green-cards who meet the other requirements – who could apply for citizenship today.

“I am an evangelist for citizenship and civic participation in immigrant communities, so I am overjoyed that the Obama Administration is helping to keep American citizenship within reach of hard-working immigrant families with modest means,” Rep. Gutiérrez said.  “In Chicago, we have been fighting against the fee increases that create barriers to citizenship and looking for creative ways within the law to help people achieve their ultimate inclusion and integration into American society.  This will really help.”

The Congressman praised the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and the City of Chicago as important advocacy partners, along with a range of local and national groups who have worked on the affordability and fee waiver issue.

“Right now, a lot of immigrants face a difficult choice: pay $700 or so for the chance to take all the tests and apply for citizenship, or pay $450 to renew a green-card for five years,” Rep. Gutiérrez said.  “Now, the math is much better.  You can apply for citizenship and a fee waiver and become an American citizen – with all the rights, duties and honor of citizenship – for a more attainable price or maybe even for free.  The new calculation is going to mean that millions of those who are already eligible can finally take the step and apply for citizenship.”

Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  His work on immigration reform in the 113th Congress (2013-2014) leading up to and including the President’s November 2014 announcement of executive actions on immigration, is captured in the PBS Frontline documentary “Immigration Battle,” which aired on PBS in October 2015.

Source: http://www.gutierrez.house.gov

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