DOJ faces call to reverse Trump rule increasing fees in immigration court
The Biden administration is under pressure to scrap a last-minute Trump-era rule that dramatically increased fees for those fighting deportation or seeking asylum in immigration court.
A rule finalized on the last full day of the Trump administration increased by nearly nine-fold the cost for appealing deportation orders while imposing for the first time a $50 filing fee on asylum-seekers.
The rule “imposes excessive fees on already vulnerable non-citizens — many of them unrepresented — seeking to defend their liberty, and often their lives, in proceedings before the immigration courts,” more than 150 groups wrote in a letter spearheaded by the American Immigration Council and the National Immigration Law Center and obtained by The Hill.
The letter calls the rule “contrary to the principles of our nation’s legal system and to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to improving the operation of the immigration courts and protecting the vulnerable individuals who appear before them.”
The rule was finalized by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which oversees the immigration court system, on Jan. 19, but it has since been blocked amid pending litigation.
Though it was one of many rules targeted by the Biden administration for review in an early February executive order, the administration has yet to take any action to formally unwind it through the lengthy rulemaking process.
Under the policy, the cost for appealing a deportation order surged from $110 to $975, while the cost of a general appeal rose from $110 to $895.
“The new fees erect an insurmountable barrier to justice. The consequences of this impeded access are severe. Long-time immigrants face permanent exile from the country they consider home and permanent separation from loved ones,” the letter states. “For those fleeing persecution or torture, a financial barrier to humanitarian protection can mean death.”
The DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment on the letter.
The DOJ rule was part of a broader pattern in the Trump administration of seeking to hike the fees paid by those moving through the immigration system. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also sought to raise a number of fees under the Trump administration, including increasing the cost to apply for citizenship from $640 to more than $1,100.
The letter comes as the Biden team has signaled interest in revamping the court system, signing an order earlier this week reestablishing an Obama-era access to justice roundtable and tasking it with examining ways to improve access to legal assistance.
Still, some have been frustrated by what they see as a slow pace in reforming the immigration court system. Earlier this month, the DOJ hired 17 new immigration court judges who were initially selected under the Trump administration, almost none of whom have made their career representing migrants in court.