Saturday, November 14, 2009

ICE in financial trouble - will increase fees

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is funded basically from fees. The federal government does provide financial support. The timing of "raising fees" when there may be much more business coming is curious.


Immigration officials weigh fee increase, layoffs


Nov. 13, 2009, 8:57PM

The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday that the agency is seriously considering increasing fees for immigration benefits amid a major budget shortfall.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of USCIS, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that a fee increase is considered a last resort, but is still “probable” considering the agency's steep drop-off in revenue last year and dismal projections for 2010.

A set of hefty fee increases by immigration officials two years ago sparked widespread criticism by immigrant advocates, who charged that steep hikes could price some immigrants out of citizenship and other immigration benefits.

USCIS, which relies heavily on fees paid by immigrants, closed the 2009 fiscal year with a $164 million shortfall after a sharp decline in immigration benefit applications.

The agency also is reviewing possible cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, Mayorkas said, adding that those, too, would be considered a last resort.

“Our overhead, our costs, need to be reduced,” he said. “There exists the possibility that we may have to seek a fee increase. We're considering all the options.”

Immigration benefit applications dropped off sharply after the 2007 fee increase, and talk of another cost hike is worrying immigrant advocates in Houston, particularly in the midst of the economic downturn.

“With the economy the way it is, if the fees continue to go up, you'll see a lot of people struggling to make ends meet and get that status,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of the Houston-based immigrant advocacy group America For All. “A lot of people are discouraged from applying for citizenship just because they can't afford it.” ..more

thanks to C.M. for sending this along

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