Legal immigrants effectively have spent more than $315 million for illegal immigrants to qualify for a quasi-amnesty program created by President Barack Obama’s administration, according to little-noticed data released last week.
In a response to questions from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency said it costs $446 to process a new application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and $216 for each renewal. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and others had asked about fees at least since 2015, but USCIS had not provided answers — until Friday.
Jessica Vaughan, who noticed the release and wrote about it for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), offered some simple math. From 2015 through 2017, the government processed 230,313 initial applications and 989,548 renewals, for a total cost of $316.5 million.
Typically, USCIS gets no tax dollars and pays its costs from fees charged to users. DACA recipients pay the cost of work permits and fingerprinting. But the Obama administration waived processing fees for other forms for DACA beneficiaries, illegal immigrants who came to America as children and met certain other conditions. They received protection from deportation and work permits.
“It most definitely is unfair. These are people who have been following the rules and doing it the right way.”
Legal immigrants paid for that in two ways. First, USCIS told CRS that it raised fees in 2015 and that those increases would have been smaller if DACA recipients paid their full share. Secondly, Vaughan noted, legal immigrants have had to wait longer because the government prioritized DACA applications over family and naturalization applications.
“It’s a double whammy for legal immigrants who have been applying for benefits since the beginning of DACA,” she told LifeZette. “It most definitely is unfair. These are people who have been following the rules and doing it the right way.”
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told LifeZette that the heretofore unknown cost is one more reason the program should not even exist.
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“In addition to the fact the President Obama lacked the authority to create it, it is now resulting in costs to [legal immigrants],” he said. “It also comes at the expense of services provided to other people served by USCIS.”
Vaughan argued that fairness dictates that Congress, if it decides to codify DACA into law, mandate that applicants pay the full cost of processing their applications. She also called for a surcharge to be applied to the applications in order to fund law enforcement or restitution initiatives. A possible use of funds collected from that surcharge could be a fund for the victims of crimes committed by DACA recipients, she argued.
Vaughan suggested that DACA recipients should be required to disclose the identities of other people that they may have used to get jobs before they attained DACA status.
President Donald Trump tried to shut down the DACA program, but several judges have blocked those efforts.
Mehlman predicted that fight eventually will land in the Supreme Court.
“This is just one additional point that can be made … The public interest is as stake here,” he said.