By Rob Abruzzese and David Brand
The Legal Aid Society announced yesterday that it has created a GoFundMe campaign to help immigrant families afford certain filing fees on immigration applications that average about $750 per person.
Previously there was a fee waiver for low-income immigrants, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has begun a practice of regularly denying waiver requests, even in cases of victims fleeing domestic violence.
The initiative will have a particular impact in Queens, where foreign-born residents make up nearly half the population, said Legal Aid spokesperson Redmond Haskins.
“Queens is the world’s borough and a lot of our clients live in Queens so this will absolutely benefit people who need help paying these exorbitant fees,” Haskins said.
Most of the filing fees cannot be waived, such as the $1,760 fee for a green card, the $725 fee for citizenship, the $540 fee to renew a green card and the $930 fee for a victim of a violent crime to seek relief. Legal Aid expects the government to issue new rules in the near future that will make it harder for any financial relief.
Legal Aid helps immigrant families with their fees when possible. As of Friday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $6,100 of its $25,000 goal. At least 45 people had donated in the 16 days of the fundraiser. Legal Aid said that raising $25,000 could help about 35 families.
“These application fees come at an enormous price, which for many of our clients is simply insurmountable,” said Hasan Shafiqullah, attorney-in-charge of the Immigration Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society. “The hurdles are even more daunting now that USCIS has begun to indiscriminately reject fee waiver requests, putting many of our clients at immediate risk. Supporting this campaign will help us fight unlawful deportation, unjust detention and to keep families together.”