Groups Sue Trump Administration Over Immigration Courts Fee Increases and Access to Justice

December 24, 2020

Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, [email protected], 202-507-7526

Groups Sue Trump Administration Over Immigration Courts Fee Increases and Access to Justice

WASHINGTON — The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher filed a federal lawsuit late yesterday challenging the Trump administration’s new rule that drastically increases fees across the board in immigration proceedings in which the government seeks to deport long-term residents of the U.S., and others. The new rule would immediately deny access to justice for economically disadvantaged individuals seeking a fair day in court.

The fee increase rule, scheduled to take effect January 18, 2021, would apply when certain applications, appeals, and motions are submitted to immigration courts or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) — both of which are overseen by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), within the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under the new fee schedule, the cost to apply for cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation will more than triple, and fees for appeals and a number of motions to the BIA — the highest administrative body that interprets and applies immigration laws — will be nearly nine times higher than their present level. In a departure from decades of law and policy, the new rule also seeks to require asylum-seekers to pay an application fee that many will not be able to afford.

“These exorbitant fees are another ‘wealth test’ for immigrants that would further cut off avenues to justice for those seeking safety in the United States and long-term residents who are essential members of their communities,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director, litigation, at the American Immigration Council. “The fee increases are staggering. They will have an immediate, devastating impact on access to justice for individuals with few or no economic resources fighting to stay in their communities and out of harm’s way.”

Despite the impact the fee increases would have, EOIR gave the public only 30 days to provide comments on the proposed rule during the COVID-19 pandemic. If the fees go into effect as scheduled, they will come two days before the new administration takes office.

“The fee increases are part of a hurried last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to solidify its extreme anti-immigrant agenda through regulations being finalized during its last days in office,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “With our courageous plaintiffs and legal partners, we’re taking the government to court to stop this cruel fee increase aimed at redefining who is worthy of being an American to only those with wealth. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that this new policy is overturned and never gets implemented.”

The case was filed on behalf of immigrant community organizations Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

“These new fees will have a devastating impact on our most vulnerable clients and community members. The government failed to take into account the ripple effects for those unable to afford the fees,” said Michelle Mendez, director of Defending Vulnerable Populations at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “The net effect will be less access to justice, with thousands of low-income immigrant families at risk of being ripped apart when all they seek is a fair and just review of their legal claims.”

The lawsuit, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, et al. v. Executive Office for Immigration Review, et al., was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is pro bono co-counsel.

“The public must have a fair opportunity to comment on a proposed rule,” said Joseph Evall of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, pro bono counsel to the plaintiffs. “The government sped this one through, withholding information about the rule’s impact and limiting the comment period, all in violation of the law.” Richard Mark, also of Gibson Dunn, added that the complaint shows that the rule should also be set aside because “the government lacks evidence or facts or analysis to support its exorbitant fee hike.” Katherine Marquart, Gibson Dunn’s pro bono partner, added, “The changes this rule makes and the defects in rulemaking were so apparent that we were able to assemble a team in short order to bring this challenge.”

The complaint is available at