Project Citizenship and Ropes & Gray Ask Federal Court to Rescind Illegal Rule Preventing Access to Naturalization for Low-Income Immigrants

In The News
August 17, 2020

Ropes & Gray, working pro bono on behalf of Project Citizenship Inc., filed a complaint in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts on Monday challenging the government’s efforts to prevent “green card” holders, or Lawful Permanent Residents, from attaining a waiver for hundreds of dollars in fees associated with an application for naturalization. 

The complaint names Chad Wolf, in his capacity as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Kenneth Cuccinelli in his capacity as Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director of USCIS. Project Citizenship seeks declaratory and injunctive relief barring implementation of an illegal USCIS rule – currently set to take effect on October 2, – that would prevent tens of thousands of eligible immigrants from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. 

In addition to eliminating fee waivers for most low-income applicants, USCIS’s planned rule changes would increase the application fee for citizenship by more than 80 percent, hiking the fee to $1,170 from $640. Numerous applicants who previously would have qualified for the “reduced fee option” would see their application fee rise to $1,170 from $320, an increase greater than 225 percent. 

The effort by USCIS to increase naturalization fees and eliminate the waiver option comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many of Project Citizenship’s clients to become unemployed. The complaint shows how the USCIS rule change undermines the agency’s stated goal to administer the country’s immigration system “efficiently and fairly” by severely limiting the ability of low-income green card holders to apply for naturalization. 

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Project Citizenship is a non-for-profit organization operating throughout New England assisting green card holders to complete their citizenship application. 

Read the court filing.