FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2007
Erik Sorensen, Communications, CAUSA 503-789-8213
Ramon Ramirez, President, PCUN 503-989-0073
Larry Kleinman, Secretary Treasurer, PCUN 503-781-1132
PCUN and SEIU file suit in Federal Court against DHS's Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for illegally inflating fees
Portland, Oregon - To achieve a 21st century immigration system, the Bush Administration must fundamentally overhaul how it processes and how it pays for the processing of immigration applications according to a group of organizations who filed a lawsuit against the government today.
Two labor organizations with large immigrant memberships filed suit today in Federal District Court in Oregon to challenge the huge fee increases recently implemented by the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Established in 2003 under the Bush Administration, the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for processing immigration applications. Plagued by many years of inefficient and inaccurate handling of applications, DHS has many times promised to deliver better quality service in a faster, more timely manner. Each time, though, DHS fails to deliver on its promises.
In July 2007, DHS announced new promises: promises to fix the broken immigration system, promises to speed up the processing of applications, and promises to improve its customer service. In exchange for these promises, DHS increased fees for immigration applications as much as 70%.
"Everyone is willing to pay fair fees for fair services," says Stephen Manning, an attorney involved in the lawsuit. "Today, however, DHS gets it wrong on both points: the fees are outrageous and the service is sub-standard." According to Manning an attorney at Immigrant Law Group LLP, DHS's well-known track record of failed promises and incomplete results means DHS will waste the fees.
The problem at DHS is a lack of leadership and commitment to truly resolving the immigration meltdown according to Ramón Ramírez, President PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), Oregon's farmworker union and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "Throwing money at a bloated government agency does not solve the problem of inefficiency" he explains. Ramírez points to the nearly 3.5 million applications backlogged in the system. "To meet its promise to the public and Congress to reduce its backlog, DHS merely changed the definition of 'backlog'". The reality, he says, is that nothing changed.
Before authorizing any fee increases, DHS must first show that it can truly deliver on its promises of efficient government. Congress must use its oversight powers to ensure that DHS follows through and provide the needed funds. "When DHS can show to Congress that it can timely and securely handle the 6 million applications it receives each year," says Manning, "then a fair increase in the fees is understandable."
Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest labor union, is a co-plaintiff in the suit.