Immigration in Pandemic Times; Vol. 1, No. 12

The coronavirus has severely damaged American health, finances, and stability. Immigrants have been one of the hardest-hit groups – what will the government do, if anything, to help?

  • USCIS fee increases go into effect on October 2, 2020. People hoping to file for green cards through family or employment will also have to pay for interim benefits such as work and travel authorization, which substantially increases expected fees. Other fees for benefits such as waivers, naturalization will also increase substantially. Fees for DACA renewals will remain the same.
  • USCIS is now accepting applications for grant opportunities under the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program that will give up to ten million dollars to groups across the country. The grants will help fund a total of 39 different organizations. The application due date for both programs is August 31.  The grants are available to organizations that help US residents on their path to naturalization and assimilation into US culture. The recipients will be announced by the immigration agency in September 2020, but that may change along with agency staff furloughs. To apply, visit grants.gov.  
  • After previous statements to Congress regarding possible furloughs, the USCIS has delayed its planned furlough date to August 31, 2020. The agency had asked Congress for emergency funding to prevent staff furloughs that could potentially lead to layoffs in the USCIS and immigration slowdowns throughout the country. Although USCIS blamed the pandemic for its budgeting shortfalls, experts say that the agency’s decrease in revenue had other causes. It should be noted that the furlough has been postponed due to newly revised estimations of the agency’s finances, which indicate a surplus of revenue.
  • On Wednesday, July 29, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s “pubic charge” rule, which makes it hard to attain legal status after receiving certain government benefits, like food stamps, or Medicaid. The ruling comes after the judge considered the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effects on the lives of many people throughout the country. Although the USCIS has stated that any COVID-19 related services would not be detrimental towards immigrants, the judge held that any policy that may deter people from being treated for the virus could lead to greater infection rates or even death for many affected individuals. The case is expected to be taken to the Supreme Court.   

Image Credit: Jernej Furman

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