Trump wants to nearly double US citizenship application fees

Yet another deliberate barrier to citizenship. Hard to see how the processing costs could be that high (over twice Canada’s, which, of course, the re-elected Liberal government has promised to eliminate):

The Trump administration is considering raising the cost of U.S. citizenship applications, according to a Department of Homeland Security rule filed on Friday.

The fee for the U.S. citizenship application would increase to $1,170 – from $640, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

A number of other cost increases were proposed, as well as the addition of a $50 fee for asylum applications.

According to the document, a biennial fee review determined that current fees “do not recover the full costs of providing adjudication and naturalization services” at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Without an increase in funding, the government predicts the agency would experience an average annual shortfall of $1.2 billion.

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed adjusting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration fees “by a weighted average increase of 21 percent,” in addition to adding fees for some benefit requests. U.S. immigration services is primarily funded by fees charged to applicants and petitioners.

Written comments must be submitted within 30 days from the date the rule is published in the federal register, which will be on Thursday.

The last time the fee schedule was adjusted was at the end of 2016.

Source: Trump wants to nearly double US citizenship application fees

Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

A case to watch given its implications for both asylum seekers and the government:

She knocked on Canada’s door and begged for protection. Instead, she was turned away, handcuffed and jailed — and no one even cared to ask her why she fled her native Burundi.

Then, in a cold cell at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, she was handed a flimsy prison jumpsuit and put in solitary confinement while waiting for the results of a mandatory TB test. Behind two panes of glass, she ate, slept and used the toilet in plain sight of the guards and anyone walking by. She was held for 51 days.

More than four years after the “horrific” detention experience she said still haunts her, this asylum seeker and others like her who were turned away by Canada at the Canada-U.S. border will finally have their day in court to explain why they feel the United States is not a safe country for refugees.

Starting Monday in Toronto, the Federal Court of Canada will hear a constitutional challenge to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, under which both countries consider themselves a safe haven for refugees and agree to block would-be claimants from attempting to enter either country at official border crossings. Arguments will be heard over five days before Justice Ann Marie McDonald.

The Burundian woman, who cannot be named but spoke to the Toronto Star, will be one of the witnesses.

“I preferred death in my country than this treatment like a criminal in the U.S. If I were to die, I should die at home,” she said.

The bilateral pact, implemented in 2004, was originally touted by both Canadian and U.S. officials as a way to curb “asylum shopping.” However, critics have long argued that the U.S. asylum system is cruel and inhumane, especially now under President Donald Trump.

Trump’s anti-migrant policies have spurred an influx of so-called irregular migrants skirting asylum restrictions by crossing outside of Canada’s official ports of entry, where restrictions apply. More than 50,000 asylum seekers have come here that way via the U.S. over the past two years. Once here, after passing initial medical and security screenings, refugees can work and access health care pending a decision on their asylum claims.

In 2007, three advocacy groups — the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches — took Ottawa to federal court and successfully had the U.S. declared unsafe for refugees, but the decision was later overturned on appeal, largely on the grounds that the groups failed to find a lead individual litigant who was directly impacted by the policy.

After Trump’s election in November 2016 with an anti-immigration agenda, Canadian and American non-governmental organizations and refugee lawyers renewed their effort to challenge the legality of the asylum restrictions.

In 2017, they connected with a Salvadoran woman in the U.S. who sought asylum after she was raped and threatened by the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang in El Salvador, and agreed to be the lead litigant.

The other litigants include a Syrian family of four and a young Ethiopian woman, all of whom were denied access to asylum in Canada. The three Canadian rights groups also enlisted nine other witnesses, including the Burundian woman, to provide evidence in support of the litigants’ arguments.

“This litigation is significant because this is a way for us to collectively take a position on the human rights abuses and violations against refugees and migrants in North America,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“Canadians are horrified by what’s been happening in the U.S., with (migrant) children separated from their families, refugees turned away at the Mexico border, the Muslim travel ban and all these measures in the U.S. The litigation is a way of standing up against these policies we don’t and can’t approve of.”

The litigants are expected to present evidence of human rights violations and Canadian Charter breaches in U.S. detention and asylum practices, and highlight the impact of the Safe Third Country Agreement on the most vulnerable refugees fleeing gender-based persecution and gang violence, who are singled out by the Trump administration to be excluded from the U.S. refugee definition.

“Refugee claimants that Canada turns away at our borders are exposed to grave risks of detention and mistreatment in the U.S.,” the litigants claim in their court submissions. “Refugee claimants are being detained indefinitely, in conditions that are nothing short of cruel and unusual, simply for seeking protection.”

In response to the claim, the Canadian government said the Canada-U.S. agreement is no different from similar deals in other refugee-receiving countries in response to rising global migration and forced displacement. Ottawa conducts regular reviews of the pact in order to ensure fair access to asylum, it said in a written response to the litigants’ claims.

“Claimants are returned to a highly developed asylum system that grants protection to large numbers of persons every year, and is subject to both administrative and judicial checks and balances,” it argued. “The U.S.A. complied with its international refugee protection and human rights obligations, notwithstanding debate both in the U.S.A. and internationally with respect to certain aspects of American policies and practices.”

However, the Burundian witness, who is only identified as “Morgan” because her identity is protected by the court, told the Star in an interview her experience in the U.S. tells a different story.

“With their accents, and English not being my first language, I had tremendous difficulty understanding them. They were treating me like I was trying to commit a crime,” recalled Morgan, 28, who said she had been threatened by government militia in Burundi after she and the civilian group she belonged to reported voter registration fraud in the 2015 election. Her cousin, also a member of the group, was shot and killed, she said.

“(American officials) were accusing me of fraud because my visa was for students. But I never intended to lie. All I wanted to do was leave a country where I could die any time,” added Morgan, who said getting a student visa was the only way she could get to the U.S. as a pathway to Canada.

Morgan, who has a degree in business administration back home, said she wanted to flee to French-speaking Canada, but since Ottawa does not have a visa post in Burundi she went to the U.S. consulate instead. She arrived in Pittsburgh in May 2015, before taking an overnight bus to Plattsburgh, N.Y., and from there to the official Canadian border post at Lacolle, Que.

She said she did not know about the asylum restrictions and was denied entry to Canada and detained in the U.S.

In addition to the lack of privacy in detention, Morgan said U.S. officials were “aggressive and rude” and did not help her fill out forms. She said with the one call she was allowed from jail she contacted a friend of a friend in the U.S., who found her a lawyer.

After 51 days behind bars, including 10 days in solitary confinement, she was released and had to couch-surf at the homes of people she barely knew while waiting for an asylum hearing to be scheduled. She said she was unable to support herself because immigration officials held her ID and she couldn’t get a work permit.

More than a year later, Trump won the U.S. presidential election, leaving Morgan to wonder if she would ever get asylum south of the border. When she learned people were bypassing the asylum restrictions at Canadian border crossings, she followed in the footsteps of those “irregular migrants” by crossing at Roxham Rd. in Quebec in August 2017.

However, she is still deemed inadmissible and ineligible to seek asylum in Canada because she had already been denied entry once — in 2015. Meanwhile, Canada cannot deport her to Burundi because of the current humanitarian crisis there.

“I am a victim who needs protection. It doesn’t make sense to call the U.S. a safe country,” she said. “I see how bad the consequences of this agreement are. I still can’t apply for refugee status in Canada because of this. This has to stop.”

Source: Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

Why Do Immigrants Outperform Native-Born Americans?

Some similarities in Canada:

Despite the hatred directed at immigrants and refugees coming to the United States and other western nations, a new report suggests that children of migrants are the ones realizing the upward mobility of the American dream, rising out of poverty at higher rates than the children of parents born in the US. Similar trends can be found in other parts of the world too, like Canada.

While the rich continue to get richer, and their offspring enjoy the advantages of an easy start in life, it is the people at the economic bottom where a parent’s migration history makes the real difference. A study by researchers at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of California at Davis is challenging pre-determined bias towards immigrants.

The team used millions of father-son pairs drawn from census data over 100 years of U.S. history to show that the children of immigrants are just as likely today as in the past to move out of poverty and into the middle-class. Further, the researchers report finding that, “both in the past and today, children of immigrants had greater chances of moving up in the income distribution relative to the children of US-born parents with comparable family income or occupation score. Second generation immigrants growing up in the 25th percentile end up 5–8 percentiles higher in the income rank than the children of the US born.”

It is not, as some ill-informed politicians have suggested, immigrants from Nordic countries who are most likely to experience this success. In fact, the sons of immigrants from China, India, and Vietnam are the ones mostly likely to be doing well, with even families that trace their roots back to Mexico, El Salvador and the Philippines showing better and steadier progress up the economic ladder than native-born Americans. Those Norwegians and Swedes are outflanked by their visible-minority peers.

At a time when we hear that the American dream is being threatened, we should celebrate that there are so many people experiencing the opportunities that come with education, strong social networks and parents who push their children to seek a better life. These young people are, if the data is accurate, much like the great grandparents of today’s less upwardly mobile populations who trace their roots back to Italy, Ireland and Portugal, all fair-skinned people that experienced the very same economic advantages of upward mobility decades ago.

What explains the difference? Why do the impoverished children of migrants outperform the impoverished children of native-born parents generation after generation?

The researchers attribute it partly to geography. Immigrants are more likely to settle in areas of their host country where there are more jobs and better educational opportunities. That is really no different than the ancestors of many native-born Americans who went to the coal mines of Virginia, the farms of Nebraska and the oil fields of Texas looking for work, only these days those places are experiencing job losses as a push towards less carbon-intensive industries and automation changes employment patterns. It is now Silicon Valley and the financial districts on the east coast that attract ambition.

While geography is one explanation, it is only one reason for the way immigrants find and exploit resources to enhance both their financial and mental wellbeing. Strong affiliations with other members of their diaspora has always been a way to ensure a cohesive economy where one member of a migrant community helps another find work, housing and navigate the intricacies of college applications and mortgage loans. The tighter the ex-pat community, the more resources are exchanged and the more success everyone enjoys.

Of course, grit, too, plays a role. Immigrants show a great deal of drive to succeed, and far more willingness to sacrifice for their children. While it is well-documented that migrants are often working in jobs where they are under-employed, the same is not true of children who are raised by families that value education and expect their children to study hard and graduate. These value systems distinguish any population that has had to struggle to survive. They are also the same characteristics that would have been found historically in the family trees of many of today’s native-born Americans who are, at least for the moment, securely anchored in the middle-class.

Before we demonize immigrants, it would be best if we looked at the science. As studies elsewhere in the world have shown, such as those by Daniel Hiebert in Canada, after just 20 years, immigrants and their children tend to match median incomes for their host countries and reach levels of home ownership and employment that are equal to, or above, the rates found among native-born populations.

Indeed, western nations like Canada that are now considering dramatic increases in immigration are ensuring that they enjoy the economic benefits of an upwardly mobile population with the personality traits and social skills to keep their GDP growing. Countries that resist immigration are forgetting lessons from the past and the spark of growth and innovation that immigrants brought to their economies. These psychological blinders, based on prejudice and a misunderstanding of economics, ignore the resilience of immigrant populations. If they are succeeding it is because they are adept at exploiting resources and exhibiting the ruggedness needed to rise out of poverty.

Source: Why Do Immigrants Outperform Native-Born Americans?

Census Bureau Releases Preliminary Results Of 2019 Test Of Citizenship Question

Will be interesting to see the detailed analysis and review by outside experts:

If the Trump administration had been allowed to add the now-blocked citizenship question to the 2020 census, it likely would not have had a significant effect on self-response rates, the Census Bureau said Thursday.

Preliminary analysis of a national experiment the Census Bureau conducted earlier this year with two versions of a test census form — one with a citizenship question and one without — suggests that question could lower self-response rates in some parts of the country and for some populations. In a blog postreleased Thursday, the bureau highlighted a 0.3% difference in the share of participants identifying as Hispanic.

Still, the differences overall were “small,” according to Victoria Velkoff, the bureau’s associate director for demographic programs who wrote the post.

The bureau’s early findings could temper some concerns that including the question would deter households, especially those with noncitizens, from taking part in the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S.

The Census Bureau randomly selected approximately 480,000 households across the country, except in remote Alaska and Puerto Rico, to take part in what it has called the “2019 Census Test.” Half of those households were asked to complete test forms with the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

The bureau scrambled to put together the test earlier this year in response to the administration’s push for the question. It’s not clear when the bureau plans to release a final report on the experiment.

Some critics of the citizenship question are holding their judgment of the bureau’s early findings. An earlier study by researchers at the bureau suggested the question would have deterred at least 9 million people from self-responding to the census.

“All other research to date by the Census Bureau has indicated that adding a citizenship question to the census would depress responses among noncitizens and Hispanics,” Dale Ho, an ACLU attorney who is helping to represent plaintiffs in lawsuits over the question, said in a written statement. “We look forward to seeing whether the full results of this latest study are consistent with the bureau’s previous findings in this regard.”

But in a statement, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — who oversees the bureau and approved adding the question — called the preliminary results “gratifying news to those who supported its inclusion.”

Throughout the legal battle over the question, opponents raised concerns that adding a citizenship question would force the Census Bureau into spending more time and money to gather responses from reluctant households.

However, the bureau’s preliminary analysis of its field test suggests it would not have needed more door knockers to follow up with people in households who did not fill out a form themselves, Velkoff wrote in the blog post.

Velkoff added that it’s unclear from these test results how the question could have impacted the “completeness and accuracy” of the 2020 census overall.

The bureau’s early findings come more than a year and a half after Ross announced his decision in 2018 to add the hotly contested question. This summer, three federal courts permanently blocked the question from being added — in part because the bureau had not conducted required testing of public reaction to including a citizenship question on 2020 census forms.

The nine-week test took place in the midst of a heated legal battle over the question. By early July, it sparked confusion around the country about why the bureau was continuing to use census forms to ask about people’s U.S. citizenship status after a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off.

The bureau has said the test results could be “valuable” to any officials considering adding such a question to future census forms.

After backing down from efforts to use the 2020 census to ask about citizenship status, the Trump administration is now moving forward with compiling government records to produce detailed citizenship data.

In an executive order released in July, President Trump said that he wants the data to be available for state redistricting officials to use when redrawing voting districts after the national head count. A prominent GOP redistricting strategist, Thomas Hofeller, has concluded that this kind of citizenship data could give Republicans and non-Hispanic white people a political advantage.

In his executive order, Trump also left open the possibility of a resurrected political fight over a census citizenship question. The president directed the commerce secretary, who oversees the Census Bureau, to “consider initiating any administrative process necessary to include a citizenship question on the 2030 decennial census.”

Source: Census Bureau Releases Preliminary Results Of 2019 Test Of Citizenship Question

Bipartisan bills proposed on Capitol Hill to help children of service members overseas acquire citizenship automatically

One of the even less explainable citizenship policy changes of the Trump administration:

A bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill is underway to make the children of service members stationed overseas automatically Americans, responding to a new federal policy that forces some parents to apply for their child’s U.S. citizenship.

In August, Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new policy addressing the definition of “residence” in the Immigration and Nationality Act. It affects children of service members and civilians living abroad who did not acquire citizenship at birth or while they were living in the United States.

Under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a child born outside the United States can automatically become a citizen if they are physically living in the United States with their parent who is a citizen. With the new policy that goes into effect Tuesday, these children will no longer be considered “residing in the United States” as they had been in the past and a parent will have to apply for their child’s citizenship before the child turns 18 years old.

When the policy was announced, President Donald Trump’s administration was criticized for its immigration policies and how the change would negatively impact military families. There was also widespread confusion about what the change actually meant and who was affected, with some initial reporting interpreting the policy to mean that military children were being denied citizenship.

On Wednesday, Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., announced they have introduced a bill called the Citizenship for Children of Military Members & Civil Servants Act that would modify section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act so children of service members who are stationed overseas can automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.

“Children of Americans serving their nation abroad are just as worthy of automatic citizenship as any other children,” Duckworth said in a prepared statement. “Forcing military families to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend hundreds of dollars applying for citizenship on behalf of their children is not right.”

The USCIS policy change would force families to pay an application fee of $1,170 per child, according to the senators’ statement.

The policy change was estimated to affect between 20 and 25 people annually, based on data compiled by the USCIS during the last five years from overseas applications with Army or Air Force Post Office and Fleet Post Office mailing addresses, according to a USCIS official in August who spoke about the issue on the condition of anonymity.

Isakson called the bill “commonsense legislation” to help military families that is overdue.

“We should be doing all we can to ease the lives of our all-volunteer force, not add needless hurdles for them and their families,” he said in the prepared statement.

A bipartisan companion bill was also introduced in the House by Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Doug Collins, R-Ga., according to the statement.

Source: Bipartisan bills proposed on Capitol Hill to help children of service members overseas acquire citizenship automatically

Trump’s hard-line immigration rule could disproportionately hurt Asian immigrants

Not the first article examining the likely effects on particular groups and likely not the last:

A hard-line Trump administration immigration policy that would deny immigrants residency if they are deemed likely to become a “public charge,” or need public assistance, could significantly affect the Asian American community.

The Department of Homeland Security rule, which was published in August, greatly expanded the definition of who is considered a public charge. Given the community’s use of certain social services, high rates of limited English proficiency, and heavy reliance on the family reunification system to come to the United States, immigration advocates fear that the rule would create serious barriers for Asian immigrants or those who wish to change their status.

Research from the Migration Policy Institute reveals more than 941,000 recent green card holders would have fallen under the Trump administration rule had it been in effect when they applied. Of those, 300,000 are from Asian countries.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the rule earlier this month, allowing a total of 15 days — which ends Friday — for parties to submit filings. The policy is currently enjoined and cannot be implemented by the administration, but it has already impacted many in the community who fear their use of public benefits could compromise their immigration status.

“The policy itself, the mere suggestion that the administration was considering the policy, has resulted in Asian immigrants and other immigrants pulling out of public benefits,” John C. Yang, executive director of the civil rights nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, told NBC News.

Yang added: “This [rule], to us, is just a made-up reason to exclude certain classes of immigrants.”

The current definition of public charge is rather specific. Those who would need cash assistance or institutionalized care would fall under the category. However the Trump administration’s expanded definition would include individuals who would need food stamps, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing. The administration rationalized the rule, claiming that “self-sufficiency has long been a basic principle of U.S. immigration law.”

Roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of Asian immigrants come to the U.S. through family-based immigration, which means they would be scrutinized under the Trump administration rule. Of the more than 420,000 green cards that were granted to Asian immigrants in Fiscal Year 2017, almost 40 percent were given to immediate family members, while more than 20 percent were given to family-sponsored waiting list registrants.

In some urban areas, the Asian American community experiences particularly high rates of poverty. In New York City, Asian Americans have the highest poverty rate compared to all other racial groups. The racial group has one of the fastest growing populations in poverty. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of Asian Americans in poverty grew by 37 percent and Pacific Islander poverty ballooned by 60 percent, higher compared to any other group. The national increase was significantly lower at 27 percent.

Almost 18 percent of those who participate in government assistance programs are Asian Americans. However those in the community already underuse social services, Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the New York City-based social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, said. Not only would underprivileged immigrants meet challenges in obtaining permanent residency, but Yoo said that the proposed rule would further intimidate them from utilizing public services.

According to the new public charge rule, immigrants would also be assessed on English proficiency. The Asian American population already has the highest proportion of residents who speak a language other than English at home. And more than one-third of Asian American and Pacific Islanders have limited English proficiency.

“The Trump administration has a very narrow view of what types of immigrants are so-called desirable in the United States and frankly it is a racist and xenophobic view,” Yang told NBC News. “That view is that only people who are desirable are already proficient in English, already have a certain level of wealth or high skills.”

Since the rule was proposed back in 2018, roughly 13 percent of immigrant adults are reported to have withdrawn their use of public benefits out of fear of risking their future green card status, according to a report by Urban Institute. Yang added that some individuals who would not be subject to the rule have actually pulled out of public services due to misinformation.

“It does not affect refugees. It does not affect existing citizens,” he said. “We don’t want people to be fearful of using public benefits when they are entitled to use them.”

Asian Americans have long confronted restrictive immigration policies tied to the potential use of social services. The first public charge rule in U.S. history coincided with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The two separate legal rules ultimately carried the same function.

“There’s an absolute linkage between the discrimination of Asians and public charge,” Yang said. “[The first public charge rule and the Chinese Exclusion Act] were rooted in the same thing: which was this notion that Chinese immigrants were coming into the country in numbers that were too large and that they were somehow deemed to be undesirable.”

Yang pointed out that since that time, public charge has been used to exclude other immigrant communities, including Mexican immigrants and those in the Jewish community.

Source: Trump’s hard-line immigration rule could disproportionately hurt Asian immigrants

USA: Immigration Head Says No Amendment Needed To End Birthright Citizenship

Stating it doesn’t make is so:

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Wednesday that ending birthright citizenship does not need a Constitutional amendment.

“I do not think you need an amendment to the Constitution. I think the question is do you need congressional action or can the executive act on their own,” Cuccinelli said during a breakfast event hosted by Christian Science Monitor.

The discussion of birthright citizenship, which is citizenship conferred on those born in the United States regardless of the citizenship status of their parents, has been a topic of debate under the Trump administration.

In August 2019, President Donald Trump told reporters that his administration was “very seriously” looking at birthright citizenship “where you have a baby on our land, you walk over the border, have a baby,-congratulations, the baby is now a US citizen…It’s frankly ridiculous.”

In an interview with Axios in October 2018, Trump claimed that he intended to end birthright citizenship through an executive order, but received considerable push back on the legality of that approach.

Then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan responded to the comments saying that birthright citizenship could not be ended by executive order because “the 14thAmendment is pretty clear.”

Despite strong rhetoric from the White House on pursuing the agenda, experts in constitutional law assert that an amendment would be required.

“Yes, it would require a constitutional amendment, and almost everyone else working on this topic would agree,” Ian Bartrum, a law professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas told Newsweek.

Birthright citizenship is protected by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. ”

Bartrum mentioned that the 14th Amendment was created to overturn the Dred Scott case, which allowed states to deny citizenship to the descendants of former and freed slaves. He noted that overturning that amendment would be questionable.

A constitutional amendment can be proposed either by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress or by a call for a constitutional convention by two-thirds of the state. The proposed amendment would require ratification for three-quarters of state, making the possibility of such action quite low.

Opinion: Applying for US Citizenship Should be Free

Ironically, just as the Liberal platform came out promising to eliminate citizenship fees, saw this US advocacy piece:

It shouldn’t cost a cent for an immigrant to apply for United States citizenship. Here’s why:

After residing in the United States with their green card for five years (or many more), having “good moral character” and maintaining limited travel, immigrants visit us so we can assist with preparing their application and prepping them for their interview. While the thousands of immigrants come to our Citizenship Department at CASA in Maryland, meet ALL of the requirements for citizenship, more than half of them cannot afford the exorbitant price tag that comes along with applying. It’s wrong.

Over the last 34 years, the fee for naturalization has risen exponentially from $35 in 1985 to an incredible $725 to apply today. With the fee on the rise, many eligible immigrants fear that they will never be able to apply for citizenship in their lifetime. The message that we are sending to our immigrants is clear: sure, you can become a citizen…if you can afford it. In alignment with President Trump’s recent attack on poor immigrants with the passing of the recent public charge ruling, the fee itself discriminates against low-income folks who should be able to naturalize easily.

It’s important to note that the $725 fee doesn’t come close to the total financial burden in actual costs that immigrants have invested in the process. Many applying are also paying hundreds of dollars for English classes, U.S. history and government classes, legal fees, transportation fees, and are already sacrificing chunks of their paychecks when taking off from work to complete the process.

Why do green card holders want to get their citizenship? Because it grants them a long list of benefits from voting in elections for candidates that represent their interests to having access to better jobs and overall better economic prosperity. Additionally, with the administration’s heinous language and policies on immigration, even immigrants who are residing in the U.S. legally fear for deportation more than ever, though they have a right to U.S. citizenship after meeting the requirements.

The bottom line is this: Money should not be a barrier to U.S. citizenship.

Many people argue that these immigration fees are necessary, since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that processes citizenship applications, doesn’t get funding directly from the government. But perhaps, this is a signal that Congress should allocate taxpayer money to cover citizenship processing fees.

Applying for citizenship should cost nothing. As U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) mentioned in a recent interview in regard to his proposed bill to increase access to fee waivers, “Citizenship promotes integration, civic responsibility, and a sense of community, which ultimately benefits all Americans.”

There are currently fee waivers available for low-income immigrants that an applicant can apply for based on their income level, their receipt of means-tested benefits, or financial hardship. However, the income-based requirement, that requires applicants to prove their income was at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline, doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of those who are in need.

I personally know many families who take out personal loans to afford the fee. Keep in mind that nearly half of the US population doesn’t have just $300 to cover an unanticipated expense.

To make things worse, USCIS has recently proposed to stop granting waivers for applicants who currently receive means tested benefits like Medicaid. In other words, USCIS has basically decided that only their office can determine whether a person needs assistance or not – despite state benefit granting agencies assessing need-based eligibility for years.

To those who are eligible for citizenship, apply now if you want to have a chance at voting in the 2020 election. Many local and state governments and non-profit organizations have temporary solutions to assist green card holders with the fee. For example, Montgomery County has partnered with CASA to provide ascholarship for residents of the county applying for citizenship. Other organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and other members of the National Partnership for New Americans, are working hard to come up with solutions to make the fee more affordable for applicants. But this cannot be a permanent solution.

As a country, this cannot be how we treat people who have sacrificed everything to be here and who have contributed so deeply, both culturally and economically, to the core of our country. The physical and emotional cost of immigrating to a new country is high enough. When it comes to the brotherhood and sisterhood of our American family, a majority of immigrants, to us, are already United States citizens. Now it’s time for Congress to lift the financial hardship and make it possible for them to act as full citizens.

Source: Opinion: Applying for US Citizenship Should be Free

How White Liberals Became ‘Woke,’ Radically Changing Their Outlook On Race

Interesting history and analysis:

Jeromy Brown, a 46-year-old teacher in Iowa, considers President Trump a white supremacist.

“If the shoe fits, then say it, and the shoe fits him,” Brown said, while waiting in a photo line at an Elizabeth Warren rally in August. “Why should he be excused from that label?”

Brown, like many white liberal voters, appreciates that some Democratic presidential candidates have begun explicitly referring to Trump as a white supremacist. His top choice, Warren, told The NPR Politics Podcast in August that “when the white supremacists call Donald Trump one of their own, I tend to believe them.”

But she’s not alone in using such strong and direct language. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has repeatedly referred to Trump as a “racist” on the campaign trail. And former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke insists that tackling white supremacy should be the No. 1 law enforcement priority in the country.

Undoubtedly, race and racism have become more salient political issues because of how the president talks about immigrants and minorities.

But the shift in how white liberals think about race actually predates both the president’s victory and the response from 2020 Democratic candidates.

Beginning around 2012, polls show an increasing number of white liberals began adopting more progressive positions on a range of cultural issues. These days, white Democrats (and, in particular, white liberals) are more likely than in decades past to support more liberal immigration policies, embrace racial diversity and uphold affirmative action.

Researchers say this shift among white liberals indicates a seismic transformation in the last five to seven years and not just a blip on one or two survey questions.

“The white liberals of 2016 or even 2014 are very distinguishable from the white liberals of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s,” said Zach Goldberg, doctoral student at Georgia State University who has been studying the change.

In poll after poll, on a range of racial issues, both Goldberg and another researcher, Andrew Engelhardt at Brown University, have independently discovered repeated evidence of a more left-leaning white Democratic electorate.

These days, a large majority of white liberals — nearly 3 in 4 — say discrimination is the main reason black people can’t get ahead.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

For some context, in the early 2000s, white liberals were split on that question — about half said blacks who couldn’t get ahead were mostly responsible for their own condition.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

An increasing number of white liberals now think the criminal justice is biased against black people. An increasing number of white liberals also say the police are more likely to use deadly force against black people.

And, more white Democrats say the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, rather than Southern pride. The reverse was true in 2000.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

Some metrics even seem to be suggesting that white Democrats express more woke attitudes than their fellow brown and black Democrats.

Goldberg cited the 2018 American National Election Studies pilot survey, which found that 78% of white Democrats thought having more races/ethnicity in the country make it a “better” place to live. Fifty-seven percent of black Democrats, and 63% of Hispanic Democrats said the same.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

About two years ago, Engelhardt said he also noticed another major shift.

“Starting about 2016 … white liberals actually rate non-white groups more positively than they do whites,” explained Engelhardt. “Usually, it’s the opposite.”

Most racial groups feel more warmly about their own race than they do about other races. That’s true for every group, except white liberals, according to the American National Election Studies.

Engelhardt says these recent flips suggests there’s something about being white in America that white liberals are trying to distance themselves from — something that could be accelerated by the rhetoric and tone of Trump and some of his supporters.

When white liberals adopt some of these progressive positions, Goldberg said, they’re “virtue signaling” — they want to prove that they’re allies of minority groups and feel they need to do that more assertively and openly in the Trump era.

Although Trump did not create the current conditions, both Goldberg and Engelhardt agree the president has accelerated the change in white voter attitudes.

Brown, from the Warren rally, derided some of his fellow white people for being “white supremacists” who think they are the only people “with the real birthright claim on this land, even though that makes no sense whatsoever.”

Engelhardt also suggests white guilt could be a motivating factor.

At an O’Rourke rally in Iowa a few weeks ago, 64-year-old Polly Antonelli teared up as the former congressman recounted a story from the El Paso, Texas, shooting. The suspected shooter in that incident had told police he was targeting Mexicans.

Antonelli said it’s “highly appropriate” to refer to Trump as a white supremacist.

“He is the one dividing people, by saying the things that he says about Muslims, about Mexicans, about s******* countries,” she said. “Calling him out on his crap might sound divisive, but it’s a reaction to his divisiveness.”

Antonelli admits that her own opinions on race have evolved as she learned more about different cultures.

“I realize how little I know and how I need to be more careful about what I say and how I pigeonhole people because of how they look,” she said, indicating a sense of cultural awareness you hear more often voiced by white liberals in recent years.

The “moral buttons” are being pushed

One possible explanation for the dramatic shift in racial attitudes in the last decade is that white Democrats who disagreed with the party’s embrace of diversity have just abandoned the party altogether. But even though the makeup of the parties has fluctuated, that’s not the only explanation; Researchers point to a genuine shift among the white liberals who have remained in the party.

“Whites’ identification as Democrats and Republicans is motivating them to hold different attitudes about people of color in the United States,” said Engelhardt.

Goldberg says he noticed an abrupt change around the time mainstream news outlets started picking up on social media accounts of fatal police shootings of black men.

“[White liberals’] exposure to injustice inequality has been heightened because of the internet,” said Goldberg. “The moral buttons of white liberals are being more frequently pressed.”

Engelhardt agrees, and pointed to one specific incident as a potential catalyst — when a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

“This kind of renewed attention to discrimination is new and novel for white liberals,” he said, explaining why there has not been as large of a shift among people of color on these survey questions, in part because they didn’t need social media videos to know what was already happening in their communities.

Source: How White Liberals Became ‘Woke,’ Radically Changing Their Outlook On Race

USA: Federal judge’s ruling upends how ICE targets people for being in the country illegally

Hard to follow all the restrictive changes in US immigration and related policies and the various court challenges and their impact, so found this summary helpful:

In a third defeat in less than a day for the Trump administration, a federal judge blocked it from vastly extending the authority of immigration officers to deport people without first allowing them to appear before judges.

The decision late Friday came before the policy, which was announced in July, was even enforced. The move would have applied to anyone in the country less than two years.

For the record:
1:31 PM, Sep. 28, 2019 An earlier version of this article misspelled U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr.’s last name as Birrote.

The decision came just after a federal judge barred Immigration and Customs Enforcement from relying solely on flawed databases to target people for being in the country illegally.

Early Friday, the administration suffered what would be its first defeat on the immigrant front in less than 24 hours when a federal judge blocked its plan to dismantle protections for immigrant youths and indefinitely hold families with children in detention.

Those protections are granted under the so-called Flores agreement, which was the result of a landmark class-action court settlement in 1997 that said the government must generally release children as quickly as possible and cannot detain them longer than 20 days, whether they have traveled to the U.S. alone or with family members.

In a statement Saturday, the White House responded angrily to the decision to halt its plans for expedited removal of immigrants.

“Once again, a single district judge has suspended application of Federal law nationwide — removing whole classes of illegal aliens from legal accountability,” the statement read in part. “For two and a half years, the Trump Administration has been trying to restore enforcement of the immigration laws passed by Congress. And for two and a half years, misguided lower court decisions have been preventing those laws from ever being enforced — at immense cost to the whole country.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which had sought the injunction granted just before midnight celebrated the result.

“The court rejected the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to remove hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. without any legal recourse,” said ACLU attorney Anand Balakrishnan, who argued the case. “This ruling recognizes the irreparable harm of this policy.”

In the first setback Friday for the Trump administration, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said new rules it planned to impose violated the terms of the Flores settlement. Gee issued a strongly worded order shortly after, slamming the changes as “Kafkaesque” and protecting the original conditions of the agreement.

Gee wrote that the administration cannot ignore the terms of the settlement — which, she pointed out, is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed — just because leaders don’t “agree with its approach as a matter of policy.”

Barring a change in the law through Congressional action, she said, “Defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this court cannot permit.”

The new regulations would have eliminated minors’ entitlement to bond hearings and the requirement that facilities holding children be licensed by states. They also would have removed legally binding language, changing the word “shall” to “may” throughout many of the core passages describing how the government would treat immigrant children.

The government is expected to appeal.

In the second decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. issued a permanent injunction barring ICE from relying solely on databases when issuing so-called detainers, which are requests made to police agencies to keep people who have been arrested in custody for up two days beyond the time they would otherwise be held.

ICE is also blocked from issuing detainers to state and local law enforcement in states where there isn’t an explicit statute authorizing civil immigration arrests on detainers, according to the judge’s decision.

The decision affects any detainers issued by an ICE officer in the federal court system’s Central District of California.

That designation is significant because the Pacific Enforcement Response Center, a facility in Orange County, is an ICE hub from which agents send out detainer requests to authorities in 43 states, Guam and Washington, D.C. It is covered by the Central District.

“ICE is currently reviewing the ruling and considering our legal options,” Richard Rocha, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. “Cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement agencies is critical to prevent criminal aliens from being released into our communities after being arrested for a crime.”

Tens of thousands of the requests are made each year to allow ICE agents additional time to take people suspected of being in the country illegally into federal custody for possible deportation. Approximately 70% of the arrests ICE makes happen after the agency is notified about someone being released from local jails or state prisons.

In fiscal year 2019, ICE has lodged more than 160,000 detainers with local law enforcement agencies, according to the agency.

Although police in California do not honor these ICE requests because of earlier court rulings that found them unconstitutional, agencies in other parts of the country continue to enforce them.

The civil case, which has wound its way through years of delays and legal wrangling, has broad implications for President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration as the ACLU and other groups sought to upend how immigration officers target people for being in the country illegally.

“I think the decision is a tremendous blow to ICE’s Secure Communities deportation program and to Trump’s effort to use police throughout the country to further his deportation programs,” said Jessica Bansal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

The class-action lawsuit, which represents broad categories of people who have been or will be subjected to detainers, alleged the databases that agents consult are so badly flawed by incomplete and inaccurate information that ICE officers should not be allowed to rely on them as the sole basis for keeping someone in custody.

The judge agreed with that assessment, finding that the databases often contained “incomplete data, significant errors, or were not designed to provide information that would be used to determine a person’s removability.”

These errors, according to the decision, have led to arrests of U.S. citizens and lawfully present noncitizens. From May 2015 to February 2016, of the 12,797 detainers issued in that time frame, 771 were lifted, according to ICE data. Of those 771, 42 were lifted because the person was a U.S. citizen.

The detainer process begins when police arrest and fingerprint a person. The prints are sent electronically to the FBI and checked against the prints of millions of immigrants in Homeland Security databases. If there is a match — such as someone who applied for a visa or was apprehended by Border Patrol — it triggers a review process, which often culminates with an agent at the center deciding whether to issue a detainer.

Last year, the Pacific Enforcement Response Center issued 45,253 detainers and alerted agents at field offices to more than 28,000 additional people released from law enforcement custody before ICE could detain them.

Trump has singled out police in California and elsewhere for their refusal to honor detainers, using them to highlight what he says are problems with the country’s stance on immigration enforcement and the need to take a more hard-line approach.

In the years since the lawsuit was filed, ICE has amended its policies, saying the changes made the process for issuing detainers more rigorous.

Source: Federal judge’s ruling upends how ICE targets people for being in the country illegally