SEIU Files Lawsuit Against USCIS/DHS for Illegally Inflating Immigrant Service Fees
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2007
SEIU FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST USCIS/DHS FOR ILLEGALLY INFLATING IMMIGRANT SERVICE FEESWASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a federal lawsuit against the Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for overstepping its role as a federal agency and raising fees well beyond basic processing costs. Following the agency’s dramatic July 30 citizenship fee hikes, the USCIS stands accused of unlawfully charging citizenship and visa applicants for infrastructure upgrades, expensive subcontractors, and other agency blunders.“Everyone is willing to pay fair fees for fair services,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina, “but USCIS delivers bad service at an outrageous price. For an Administration that claims to promote integration and a pathway to the American Dream, USCIS’s choice to burden hard-working, law-abiding immigrants with the costs of their own incompetence is shameful.”“USCIS has promised many times to deliver better quality service in a more timely manner, and each time it has failed to deliver on those promises,” said Stephen Manning of Immigrant Law Group, one of the attorneys involved in the lawsuit. “USCIS needs to demonstrate that it can truly deliver on its promises of efficient government and follow the legal process through Congress before it authorizes this type of tax increase on US residents.”In February, USCIS proposed fee hikes of as much as 69% for dozens of immigrant processing services in order to “build a new immigration service for the 21st Century.” Despite receiving more than 4,000 formal complaints against the proposed fees—including an increase from $400 to $675 to apply for US citizenship—USCIS moved forward, calling it a “business decision.” Yet USCIS has failed to show how the new fees will improve its handling of the six million citizenship and visa applications it receives each year, as well as the more than 3.5 million applications that are currently backlogged.“Frankly, we’ve yet to hear a good explanation for why we are seeing an exponential jump in the fees for services. In 1998, it cost $95 to apply for U.S. citizenship, but today—even after technology has made nearly every processing service cheaper—USCIS is charging more than $675,” continued Medina. “We’ve waited far too long for an overhaul of USCIS’s services to now accept their plan to throw money at the problems. This lawsuit is about accountability. We need to hold USCIS accountable so that it provides cutting-edge service at a fair cost. We need to hold Congress accountable for doing its job and to provide funding for an effective restructuring of USCIS’s services. Everyone agrees we need solutions for our broken immigration system, and fixing the flaws in the infrastructure is a key component.”SEIU, representing its more than 1.9 million members, is joined by Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon’s union of farm workers, nursery, and reforestation workers, as lead plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.With 1.9 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union.