On Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is increasing naturalization application fees from $640 to $1,160 — a more than 80% increase — as of October 2, reports CNN’s Geneva Sands. Another troubling detail: “Historically, asylum seekers around the world are not subject to application fees, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The US will join only three other countries — Australia, Fiji, and Iran — imposing asylum fees.”
This is in addition to the 10% application surcharge the agency is seeking to cover a $1.2 billion loan taken out due to pandemic-related financial troubles.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of Noorani’s Notes. Have a story you’d like us to include? Email me at email@example.com.
THE RGV – For the 1.3 million residents of Texas’s Rio Grande Valley — 90% of whom are Hispanic — there is no public hospital. The Houston Chronicle’s Sylvia Foster-Frau reports on the staggering toll COVID-19 is taking on this community: “The thing that shocks me more than anything is that so many families had multiple deaths. It’s just devastating this community. There’s multiple generations disappearing overnight,” said Tim Brown of Ric Brown Family Funeral Homes. Initially, county judges in the region had implemented strict stay-at-home measures that contained the disease. But “[t]he explosion of cases in the Rio Grande Valley corresponded with the recent surge across the state after Gov. Greg Abbott began to reopen businesses.”
BALDWIN’S BIRTHDAY – Reflecting on James Baldwin’s birthday this past weekend, writer and Iranian immigrant Leah Mirakhor writes in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times about how the prolific author spoke in many ways to the immigrant experience. “In his vast body of work, Baldwin showed us how to bear witness to the past ‘with both pride and despair,’ so that we could break from the tragedy of the present. Baldwin told the stories of Black Americans who came ‘from a long line of runaway slaves who managed to survive without passports.’ And in these histories, he reminded us of what it might mean to be an American.”
ALBENCE OUT – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s acting director, Matthew Albence, announced his retirement Friday following recent clashes with the Trump administration regarding the agency’s work during the ongoing pandemic. Per Max Cohen in Politico: “Trump officials accused Albence of favoring humanitarian concerns about the treatment of immigrants over the chance to take more aggressive action … Albence’s decision to halt most ICE enforcement efforts put him on thin ice with White House officials, a conflict that was part of a broader dispute between Albence and administration leaders.”
NEW JERSEY LICENSES – New Jersey’s state legislature has officially passed a bill allowing undocumented immigrants in the state to obtain professional and occupational licenses, making it the first state on the East Coast to do so, Monsy Alvarado writes for NorthJersey.com. “In New Jersey, dozens of professions and occupations require licenses, including accountants, architects, acupuncturists, audiologists, beauticians, court reporters, cosmetologists, doctors, dentists, engineers, home inspectors, morticians, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, plumbers, psychiatrists, real estate appraisers, social workers and veterinarians. Although federal law prohibits employers from hiring someone living in the country illegally, immigrants of any legal status are able to work as independent contractors or to start a business using a Social Security or Individual Tax Identification Number.” The bill now awaits Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature.
ONE YEAR LATER – A year after the massacre of 23 people in a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, Nicole Chavez at CNN reports on continued hate crimes targeting Latinos. “‘The attack in El Paso wasn't just a lone gunman opening fire on those ‘Mexican invaders’ as he called them,’ said Domingo Garcia, national president for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). ‘His actions were part of the larger attack against Latinos in our country being fueled daily by the poison of racial hate.’” FBI data show that hate crimes against Latinos have increased every year since 2015. However, “[t]here have been few federal hate crimes prosecuted since 2012, according to an analysis by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, an organization at Syracuse University that tracks and collects data about the federal government.”
HARD-HIT – Small business owned by Latino immigrants — about 10% of all small businesses across the U.S. — have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, receiving little government-funded financial relief. Inti Pacheco for The Wall Street Journal writes that “[a] survey of Latino small business owners conducted in June by online small-business lender Camino Financial found that 71% of the respondents didn’t apply for government assistance. Among those who didn’t apply, almost 19% believed they might qualify but needed technical assistance filling out the application.”
Thanks for reading,