High Cost, Slow Service
From Hoy
April 30, 2004

Starting today, it costs more to be a legal immigrant and to obtain citizenship in he United States. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigrant Services increased rates on a list of more than 35 existing steps in the immigration process, leaving immigrants obligated to pay between $50 and $65 more for these services.

The announcement, which was made in mid-April, included a rise in fingerprinting fees, from $50 to $70.
The measure fell like a bucket of cold water on dozens of people who arrived yesterday at the agency’s offices in lower Manhattan.

A group of immigrants made a line starting at 4 AM to save themselves from the new fee.

“It's too high of a cost, it seems like a measure of economic discrimination,” said Nuria Niño de Guzmán, a New York resident of Peruvian origin who arrived early in the morning to deal with her petition for citizenship. Niño de Guzmán had to pay $325 in 2002 when applying for citizenship; today the same transaction costs $390.

In respect to the service that immigrants receive, she said that it’s “slow and the treatment is despotic, even though the majority of the workers are Hispanic the same as us.”

But for some immigrants the costs may be even more expensive.

José Luis Barrera, an immigrant from Honduras, “works” in front of 26 Federal Plaza, the federal immigration office. He is a go-getter who describes himself as an “orienter.” Although he considers the new fees to be too high, he charges his clients between $40 and $50 for his services.

“I walk here and help people; they give me a donation, but I can’t cross that line [into the agency’s own line], because I’ll get a fine of $110.”

Barrera, who arrived in the United States in 1994, said that things are changing for the worse. “Service is slow, every day they change the formulas and confuse people.”

Still, not everyone agrees. Mynor Rosales said that the measure is excellent because the agency is giving a good service. “Before you would show up at 4 AM and stay until 4 PM. Now they don’t keep me for more than an hour.”

Fees for work permits have risen from $120 to $175, while applications for permanent residency, more commonly known as Green Cards, have risen in price from $255 to $315.

The last time fees were raised was in 2002, when the prices rose $20 per application.

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Translated from Spanish by Joshua Brustein.

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