legal service providers

Unraveling the Implications of Proposed Immigration Court Fee Increases

In recent developments within the U.S. legal system, non-profit legal service providers have taken a significant stand against the federal government's attempt to implement substantial increases in immigration court fees. This move, initiated during the Trump administration, proposed to escalate certain fees by an astonishing 700%. The legal battle, led by entities such as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, KIND Inc., and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, is centered around what they argue to be an "arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful" hike in costs that would affect migrants' ability to file applications, motions, and appeals in immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The issue first came to the fore when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) finalized the fee change in December 2020. Notably, the fee for appealing deportation orders was set to jump from $110 to $975. The legal service providers have challenged this rule, citing violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act. They argue that the rulemaking process lacked adequate public notice and comment, particularly problematic given that the 31-day notice-and-comment period coincided with the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The plaintiffs also highlighted the government's failure to adequately consider extensive evidence presented during the brief public comment period, which demonstrated the severe adverse impacts these fee hikes would have. Such impacts are particularly troubling for legal service providers who play a crucial role in assisting immigrants, many of whom do not speak English and are incapable of navigating the legal complexities of immigration procedures on their own.

As the case progressed, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia preliminarily found in January 2021 that the nonprofits were likely to succeed on at least one of their claims, granting a preliminary injunction just days before the transition to President Joe Biden's administration. The lawsuit was temporarily put on hold with the expectation that the new administration might reconsider the pending fee increases. However, after several delays, the court lifted the stay in December, and the parties filed motions for summary judgment in March.

The federal government defended its rulemaking process and the abbreviated comment period, arguing that the process adequately addressed public concerns. Nonetheless, the legal service providers filed briefs opposing the government’s bid for summary judgment, accusing the government of attempting to downplay the deficiencies in the rulemaking process and urging the court not to simply remand the rule but to consider vacating it due to its arbitrary and unlawful nature.

This legal confrontation unfolds against a backdrop of broader challenges faced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including revenue shortfalls and growing visa and green card backlogs, as highlighted by a report from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The report noted a significant drop in the availability of immigration attorneys, with only 30% of noncitizen clients having legal representation in the face of a rising backlog, which stood at approximately 3.29 million cases by December 2023.

The case, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. et al. v. Executive Office for Immigration Review et al., not only highlights the ongoing challenges in U.S. immigration policy but also underscores the critical role of legal advocacy in safeguarding the rights of immigrants. As the court continues to deliberate on this matter, the outcome will significantly influence the accessibility of legal resources for immigrants facing deportation and other legal challenges.

As an immigration law firm dedicated to providing expert and experienced legal services, we closely monitor such developments to better assist our clients in navigating the complex landscape of immigration law. This case exemplifies the importance of vigilant legal oversight in ensuring that immigration policies remain just and accessible to all.


Dorothy Atkins, "Immigration Orgs Fight Feds' Bid To Win Fee Hikes Dispute," Law360, April 22, 2024.

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