The other day, I noted that the application for DREAM-eligible immigrants for deferred action status, enabling them to avoid deportation and stay in the United States with a work permit for two years, will cost $465. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security, will handle the applications.
I wondered why this signature program announced by the President would end up being so costly to the individual, and if it would damage the potential effectiveness of the program. So I asked the office of Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) about it. Gutierrez is perhaps the biggest advocate for immigrants’ rights in Congress.
Their response was that USCIS is 100% financed by fees. So absent a Congressional appropriation, which won’t happen – deferred action was an executive order, after all – USCIS would have to collect something to handle the caseload, the background checks and everything else that goes along with the application process. Gutierrez’ office said that $465 was on the low end of what they hoped, and that in general, immigration fees are expensive and arduous.
DREAMers have shown themselves to be resourceful, and they could raise the funds in a number of ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Kickstarter pages emerge to handle the application fee, or even micro-lending. The applicants are in almost all cases talented individuals who would be able to obtain high-paying jobs in the future and would pay off the investment, if given a chance to succeed.
Congressman Gutierrez addressed this last week, saying that “$465 is a significant sum to a young adult, but work authorization and not worrying about being deported is priceless.”
Gutierrez’ office promised to help individuals who cannot afford the $465 to apply for a fee waiver, though USCIS seemed to indicate that they would only grant those in extraordinary circumstances, like homelessness.
More information on the USCIS deferred action application process is available here. Individuals can apply beginning August 15.