Two years into his presidency, President Joe Biden is finally starting to prioritize immigration policy. Over the past month, his administration has announced new proposals to make it easier for refugees and asylum-seekers to migrate legally to the United States.
That sounds like great news for our historically slow and rigid immigration system. But because of restrictions on how quickly immigrants can get to work and the way the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded, the new proposals will end up hurting American businesses, as well as the very immigrants the Biden administration wants to help.
The Department of Homeland Security is now allowing asylum-seekers to enter the country via legal points of entry at the Mexican border. If they can demonstrate a “vulnerability” and pass a background check, Homeland Security will grant them a humanitarian visa and allow them to live permanently in the U.S.
Humanitarian visas are free for those applying for them, but processing large numbers of new immigrants isn’t easy or cheap, so the government needs to collect the money from somebody. Unlike other government agencies that chiefly rely on tax revenue to fund their operations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services charges money directly to those who want to use their services. Possible immigrants (or their would-be employers) have to pay certain fees to get permission to move to and work within the U.S.
Because of this fee-for-service model, it makes sense for Citizenship and Immigration Services to offset rising costs due to an increase in humanitarian visas by increasing fees for other immigrants. Essentially, this means that foreign workers will be forced to subsidize the costs of processing poorer, nonworking immigrants.
And it has already begun. Earlier this month, Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it wants to increase its fees and charge thousands of dollars, depending on the type of application. Because people must submit several different applications, it can wind up costing one worker $4,000 to $12,000 to complete the entire process. Some applications are already outrageously expensive. For example, a type of investor visa called the I-956 costs the applicant $17,795; Citizenship and Immigration Services wants to bump this up to an astounding $47,695.