As the country tries to determine where to put its attention, the Trump administration plays its part behind the scenes.
Last Wednesday, a federal judge in California blocked a government-imposed rule that could have increased the price of naturalization fees by more than 80%, and charged a fee for the first time to asylum seekers, CNN reported.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its fee structure after a nearly nine-month review earlier this year, and as the country grappled with collateral from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cost of online naturalization applications rose from $640 to $1,160, including a $50 fee for asylum seekers, making the United States the only country to impose an asylum application fee in the world.
Although the fees were scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 2, California federal judge Jeffrey White blocked the measure last Tuesday.
“Plaintiffs persuasively argue that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the Final Rule because if it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, will block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose those populations to further danger,” he wrote.
“Plaintiffs also cite comments and research that argue the public at large would be harmed if the Final Rule goes into effect because it will negatively impact tax revenues and would delay individuals seeking to naturalize from participating in essential civic activities like voting, service in public office, and jury service. Defendants do not counter those arguments,” White added.
Similarly, the rule would increase H-1B petitions fees by 21% (from $460 to $555) and L visa petitions by 75% (from $460 to $805). USCIS would impose higher fees on companies with more than 50 employees with at least 50% of their workforce in H-1B and L-1 status by reinterpreting the law to charge an additional $4,000 fee on extensions, Forbes explained.
The rule would also increase petitions’ cost by more than 50% for O, TN, E, P, Q, and R visas.
“As long as this preliminary injunction is in place, USCIS can’t raise fees,” said Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration, in an interview with the media. “The government will rush to obtain a stay of the injunction from the 9th Circuit, and there’s no telling how long that will take or what the outcome will be.”
The temporarily failed government measure is part of the silent machinery that is in place. Meanwhile, the president distracts the rest of the country with his erratic public behavior, watching his re-election hang by a thread just weeks away from U.S. citizens finally deciding where they want the country to go.