GOP senators blast DHS for hiking fees on farmers in order to fund asylum cases
Sen. Marsha Blackburn led a group of Republican senators Tuesday in blasting the Biden administration for trying to raise fees that businesses pay to bring in immigrant workers, saying the president wants farmers to pay the price for his border chaos.
The lawmakers said the basic fee increases — which will more than double in some cases — will hurt businesses struggling to find workers in the current economy.
They said even worse is an additional $600-per-visa surcharge that would be used to cover the costs of the asylum system, which has spiraled out of control in recent years as illegal immigrants show up at the southern border and make iffy claims of protection.
“Instead of penalizing employers for this administration’s manufactured border crisis, DHS should focus its efforts on instituting commonsense policies to stem the influx of migrants overwhelming our immigration system,” Ms. Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, and seven colleagues wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
They called on Mr. Mayorkas to cancel the fee increases.
The secretary detailed the increases in a regulatory filing in January, saying he hoped to raise the annual income of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles legal immigration, from $4.5 billion a year to $6.4 billion.
USCIS was envisioned to be self-sustaining, with the belief that immigrants — and businesses that seek to bring them in — should pay their own way and not be a burden to the taxpayers.
But USCIS says it’s overwhelmed by applications and needs the additional money to handle the workload. It also said an increasing amount of that work is for humanitarian cases, such as the illegal immigrants at the border claiming asylum, which don’t carry fees.
That money must come from somewhere, and the new proposal puts the burden on regular lawful immigrants.
The public had until Monday to file comments.
More than 6,300 comments were submitted, with a significant number of them from average citizens and businesses complaining they can’t afford the increases.
Some of those businesses called on the government to stick taxpayers with the tab, saying the burden should be spread to everyone.
The senators, in their letter, said their solution would be to get a handle on the border, which would cut down on the number of asylum-seekers — most of whom will lose their cases anyway.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden administration continues to reward illegal entry into this country, especially at the expense of hardworking entrepreneurs and farmers who are operating within the legal parameters of the immigration system,” the senators said.
They said the fee increases were particularly galling because USCIS is delivering poor service to the legal immigration side of the equation already.
They pointed to $275 million that Congress included as an emergency injection of cash in last year’s spending bills, which the agency said would be used to cut into the massive backlog of cases. The senators said that “ultimately did not lead to more efficient processing.”