José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

An unanimous and fulminant reaction of rejection came from the main Latino defense organizations in the United States to the Trump administration’s decision to raise fees for immigration services as of October 2, including an 81% increase to the naturalizations and for the first time a $ 50 fee for the person seeking asylum in the country.

The organization UnidosUS called it the “latest attack” by the Trump administration against the immigrant community, while NALEO warned that the rates will especially affect more than 4 million Latino residents who are already eligible for US citizenship.

The USCIS, a federal agency that depends 97% on the fees it charges its users, justified the increases on the grounds that it requires charging fees that allow it to recover the costs of its services. He argued that failure to do so would open a financial hole of $ 1 billion per year.

In May the agency had asked Congress for an emergency budget of 1.2 billion or that it would have to put 13,000 workers on leave. Last week, USCIS agreed to postpone the licenses until the end of August, a wait for Congress to act, where Republicans and Democrats remain mired in that and other pressing matters, including the new economic bailout package for COVID-19.

There are many arguments against a rate increase at this time. But there is one morally powerful, and it has to do with the vital role immigrants play and will play in the nation’s immediate health and long-term prosperity:

A recent study by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) shows that 19.8 million immigrants, a large proportion of them Hispanic, work in essential critical infrastructure, such as health, manufacturing, services, food, security, among other categories. Of that total, about half, 9.6 million, are foreign-born, 4.6 million are legal permanent residents, 5.5 million are undocumented.

Furthermore, naturalized Americans account for 67% of healthcare workers, including 74% who work in hospitals and medical offices. Undocumented immigrants, mostly Latinos, make up 54% of the foreign workforce in agriculture and farms, 50% in construction, and 40% in disinfection industries.

In other words, the study confirms with irrefutable figures what we already knew: that immigrants – be they naturalized citizens, Legal Permanent Residents or undocumented immigrants – are vital for our future and risk every day of their lives in the trenches of the battle front against the pandemic. The logical thing is to thank them, not complicate their future.

Extraordinary times demand extraordinary actions. Congress must act on the matter and provide sufficient funds for the operation of USCIS and it should reconsider the increases in its rates. But, in any case, all eligible people must make an effort and accelerate their immigration procedures before October 2.


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