The United States will become one of four countries to charge asylum seekers fees for seeking protection, according to a finalized policy announced on Friday.
The move is just the latest move by the Trump administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries. The United States is now joining the ranks of Iran, Fiji and Australia in charging a fee. In the United States, there will be a $ 50 fee on refugee claims starting in October.
“A fee of $ 50 matches the fees charged by these other countries,” US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explained in the final regulations released on Friday.
However, an asylum officer who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the charges were daunting.
“The biggest problem is that humanitarian apps, by their nature, have to be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who flee – and not helping if they don’t pay – is disgusting.
Another asylum officer said it would cost the agency more than $ 50 to collect the fees, “which is not enough to cover the cost of examining an asylum claim.”
“It is a sanction against asylum seekers,” added the officer.
Asylum fees are just one of many changes included in the rule issued by USCIS, which is primarily funded by immigrant applications, such as filing for a green card or work permit. The agency is required to review its pricing structure every two years.
The final rule will see immigrants seeking to naturalize and apply to become U.S. citizens to pay more than $ 1,170, a jump of $ 640.
Agency officials said on Friday that the rule increased fees for many apps in order to recoup the money it needed to keep running.
“USCIS is required to review inbound and outbound spending and make adjustments based on that analysis,” USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement. “These overdue fee adjustments are necessary to effectively and fairly administer our country’s legal immigration system, secure the homeland, and protect Americans.”
The agency has been in the midst of a financial crisis for several months, warning that it will lay off more than 70% of its staff if it does not receive emergency funding from Congress by the end of August.
The reasons for the funding shortage, however, have been debated – agency officials cite a massive drop in immigration applications due to the pandemic, while immigrant advocates and pundits say the Trump administration’s restrictive policies have played a role in the budget problems.