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US federal judge blocks big fee hikes for citizenship, other immigration benefits

Fees were set to increase by an average of 20 per cent on Friday at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for awarding citizenship, green cards and temporary work permits.

Published: 30th September 2020 11:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2020 11:34 AM   |  A+A-

USApassport

For representational purposes

By Associated Press

SAN DIEGO: A federal judge on Tuesday halted major fee increases for citizenship and other immigration benefits three days before they were to take effect, saying the last two chiefs of the Homeland Security Department were likely appointed illegally.

US District Judge Jeffrey White found Kevin McAleenan was improperly catapulted to acting secretary when Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019.

The judge said McAleenan, as Customs and Border Protection commissioner, was seventh in line to assume the acting role under rules of succession at the time.

Chad Wolf, who became acting secretary after McAleenan resigned in November 2019, was also promoted out of order from his position as undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans.

White, who was appointed by President George W.

Bush in Oakland, California, also blocked the fee hikes on grounds that the Trump administration likely failed to justify its decision as required under federal rule-making.

The Homeland Security and Justice departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.

Homeland Security strongly disagreed with a similar finding in August by the Government Accountability Office, a congressional investigative agency, that McAleenan, Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, the department's second-highest-ranking official, were appointed illegally.

President Donald Trump nominated Wolf to be secretary September 10 but the Senate has not confirmed the appointment.

Fees were set to increase by an average of 20 per cent on Friday at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for awarding citizenship, green cards and temporary work permits.

Changes were to include the first-ever fee for applying for asylum of USD 50.

Asylum-seekers would also have to pay USD 550 if they sought work authorization and USD 30 for collecting biometrics.

The fee to become a naturalized citizen was set to jump to USD 1,170 from USD 640.

Fee waivers were to be largely eliminated for people who say they cannot afford to pay.



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