Thirty three cities marked Constitution Day by urging court to block application fee increases

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Software developer Sundari Narayanan, poses with President Trump holding her Citizenship certificate at the White House following a Naturalization ceremony Aug. 26, 2020.. (Photo: videograb from White House video of ceremony)

Thirty three cities and counties commemorated Citizenship Day and Constitution Day September 17, by joining with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), to submit an amicus brief in the Project Citizenship lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, urging that fees for naturalization not be raised.

The lawsuit follows a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy that would make it more expensive for U.S. residents to apply for naturalization as well as other statuses and benefits, a press release from the Mayor of Boston’s office said.

Starting on October 2, USCIS is nearly doubling the cost of applying for naturalization from $725 to $1,200 and eliminating the fee waiver for almost all low-income residents. USCIS is also increasing the permanent residence (green card) application fee and implementing an asylum application fee, making the United States one of four countries to do so.

The City of Boston and 32 other cities are asking the federal court to stop this new rule from going into effect.

“These fee increases go against the values America was founded on,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is quoted saying in the press release. “People come to the U.S. for a better life for themselves and their families, whether that’s 400 years ago or yesterday. This new rule creates a wealth test to be an American, and citizenship must not be reserved for those who can afford it.”

There are about nine million people in the U.S. eligible for citizenship, the press release noted. The amicus brief highlights how local governments have invested in supporting the naturalization process, how naturalized citizens benefit from the support, and how naturalization increases the civic and economic health and resilience of local communities for all residents. The brief argues these fee increases send a message to low-income lawful permanent residents that full civic participation is only reserved for those who can afford it.

“Being American is not about how much money you have or the color of your skin,” said the Mayor. “Being American is about making a commitment to this country, to choosing a life in our communities and enjoying the rights and liberties promised in the Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution.”

The amicus brief was submitted by the City of Boston, together with Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Boise, ID; Brownsville, TX; Cambridge, MA; Carson, CA; Chelsea, MA; Chicago, IL; Cook County, IL; Davis, CA; Dayton, OH; Denver, CO; Lawrence, MA; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County, CA; Lynn, MA; Malden, MA; McAllen, TX; Melrose, MA; Metropolitan Area Planning Council, MA; Minneapolis, MN; Montgomery County, MD; New York, NY; Newton, MA; Oakland, CA; Palm Springs, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Saint Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Somerville, MA; Stamford, CT; Tacoma, WA; and the US Conference of Mayors.

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