Up up and away
From the Sun-Sentinel-
I've blogged previously about this rate increase. It is outrageous coming from an agency that is both terribly mismanaged and ignorant of the laws it is supposed to be enforcing.
Federal immigration authorities have proposed dramatically raising fees for green card petitions, work permits and other services -- money they said would help modernize and humanize the immigration service.
Emilio Gonzalez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Wednesday that the new rates, 86 percent higher on average, would fund additional personnel and updated technology, replace grungy buildings and ease long lines. Set to take effect in June, the changes would help close security gaps and bring down processing times by 20 percent by the end of fiscal 2009, he said.
"This is a growth industry. I need these fees to give the immigrant communities the service they expect," Gonzalez told reporters. "There's a cost to better service, there is a cost to have a nice facility."
Anticipated for months, the fee increases have met with criticism from immigrant advocates, who said the new prices would be a drain on low-income families and might even bar some from benefits. The agency said it would seek public comment on the proposed fees for 60 days, then fine-tune the changes and enact them in June.
Under the proposal, renewal fees for green cards, or permanent resident cards, would jump to $290, from $190. A petition for a work permit would increase to $475, from $195. Green card application fees would surge to $905 per card, from $325. The latter increase, as with other categories, includes travel documents and work permits that were billed separately before.
In South Florida, community leaders suggested lower rates for children, family caps on some petitions, and extending work permits for longer periods to eliminate renewal charges.
Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami, said he was concerned how his group's clients, mostly low-income families, would afford the new charges. In particular, he pointed to naturalization fees, set to climb to $595 from $330.
"We should be encouraging people to file for citizenship," he said. "It's a cornerstone of our immigration policy that we want people to assimilate, and citizenship is the ultimate act of assimilation."
Gonzalez said his agency would continue to waive fees on a case-by-case basis, but he did not specify what kinds of financial strains would make immigrants eligible. Victims of human trafficking and women reliant on sponsorship by abusive spouses will also receive waivers.
Under the current fee structure, Gonzalez said, the agency is not recovering enough money to meet its goals for additional services. Security checks mandated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks add a new layer of spending.
If enacted as is, the higher immigration fees would generate an additional $1 billion in annual revenue for Gonzalez's agency, boosting the current budget by 29 percent.
For Jose Cerrato, president of the Honduran Organization of Palm Beach in Lake Worth, the new fees would be unacceptably high.
Someone working at Burger King for $7.15 an hour would have to scrape hard to find $905 for a green card application, and might decide to put off the application process for some members of the family, Cerrato said. He called on authorities to offer breaks, such as reduced fees for children.
If the MSM wants to cause public outrage(Not very likely to happen in TFM's opinion) at this rate increase, I'd suggest a more sympathetic party that will be paying through the nose due to these increases. Like members of the US military.
Every year thousands of our military service members stationed abroad marry foreign nationals. I did just that back in 1989. Blogger GI in Korea is another example of a US serviceman marrying someone he met while stationed overseas. Our military isn't the highest paid profession and now some will be taking a big hit in the wallet because of this proposed fee increase. Do you believe in supporting our fighting men and women or think all immigrants should pay a high price for legally immigrating here? I continue to advocate that our service men and women should get a break when dealing with immigration. In both lower fees and better, faster service. A soldier serving in Iraq has enough stress to deal with and shouldn't have more financial burdens placed upon them by our government.
What do you think?
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