In the summer of 1999, a little over a year after I arrived in the United States after my adoption from China, I became a citizen. As a toddler, my parents dressed me up in a small, red-white-and-blue jumper, and I was told there were celebratory popsicles after my ceremony. My citizenship opened up a world of opportunities that have inexorably changed my life’s path. Among some of the most obvious include the right to vote and to reside permanently in my home.
This summer the USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services) announced fee increases for US Citizenship applications, to take effect October 2, 2020. This increase is a steep spike from $640 to $1,160. My path to naturalization was comparatively easy, and I was fortunate to have a family whose priority was my citizenship. However, for many it is unfortunately a much longer and more arduous journey. The egregious fee increase by the USCIS acts as a barrier for prospective citizens. Latinx, Asian American, and many other communities of color will face repercussions regarding this decision. The insidious nature of these increases will have the largest effects on immigrants from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those seeking asylum, and those unfairly left out of retroactive citizenship, like some intercountry adoptees.
According to the USCIS’s website, the organization naturalized 834,000 new citizens in Fiscal Year 2019. It is yet to be determined how these fee increases will affect naturalization numbers in the future. Until the day comes for an easier and more accessible process for citizenship, what we can do now is get the word out concerning the USCIS’s fees. If you or someone you know is in need of free assistance to fill out the N400 Citizenship Application form, attend NCAAT’s rolling naturalization clinics. Sign up at ncaatogether.org/naturalization