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'Simply Barbaric': Trump Administration Proposes Charging Asylum Fee for Refugees Fleeing Violence and Poverty

"It's an unprecedented weaponization of government fees."

Asylum-seekers wait in line to receive breakfast outside a temporary shelter on Nov. 24, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Trump administration this coming week will formalize a proposal that could make it one of just four countries in the world that charge asylum-seekers for entry.

As the New York Times reported late Friday, the administration plans to publish in the Federal Register a proposal to require a $50 application fee for asylum-seekers as well as a $490 charge for work permits.

"It's an unprecedented weaponization of government fees," Doug Rand of the immigrant assistance company Boundless Immigration told the Times.

Currently, the only countries in the world that charge asylum-seekers—who are often fleeing war, persecution, or violence in their home countries—are Iran, Fiji, and Australia.

Also included in the plan, proposed on Friday by Ken Cuccinnelli, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), were significant increases in fees for renewal of DACA protections and citizenship.

Young people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is the subject of a Supreme Court case beginning Tuesday, will be required to pay $765 for renewal rather than $495.

Citizenship fees could go up 60 percent, from $725 to $1,170.

Cuccinnelli claimed Friday that the charges are needed to help confront his agencies $1.3 billion deficit. By contrast, the total U.S. deficit approached $1 trillion in 2019 under President Donald Trump—yet the president has requested more spending on the military and his proposed border wall.

The immigrant rights group United We Dream denounced the plan to impose financial burdens of young undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers as "outrageous."

"Charging an asylum application fee is simply barbaric," added Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road Action.

Matthew Soerens of the faith-based refugee aid group tweeted that if Cuccinnelli's proposal goes into effect, the fee for U.S. citizenship will have gone up by more than $1,000 in two decades.

The newly proposed fee "will actually be even more than $1,170, presuming that does not include a required biometrics fee," Soerens added. "And none of these prices include paying an attorney, which can be thousands of dollars in some cases."

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