Naturalization Lawsuit - City of Seattle v. DHS
In October, 2019, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced changes to the naturalization process that will present significant barriers to citizenship for tens of thousands of non-wealthy applicants each year.
The new rules will make it much harder to qualify for a fee waiver, and will severely curtail naturalization applications, particularly from low-income applicants. Recent research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab suggests that the new rules could reduce the number of naturalization applications filed each year by as much as 10 percent.
Immigrants are typically not eligible to naturalize until they have lived as lawful permanent residents in the United States for five years, speak English, understand U.S. history and civics, and demonstrate a commitment to the U.S. Constitution. There is also a $725 application fee. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services currently waives the fee for those who cannot afford to pay it, which is approximately 40% of applicants. Under rules in place since 2010, lawful permanent residents (also commonly referred to as green card holders) who receive means-tested benefits from another government agency are automatically entitled to a fee waiver, making the process easy for USCIS to administer and for applicants and service providers to complete. The new policy significantly increases the burden on applicants who wish to apply for a fee waiver, and makes it impossible for some poor lawful permanent residents to apply at all.
On October 30, 2019, Advancing Justice-AAJC, Protect Democracy, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and Mayer Brown LLP filed suit in California on behalf of organizations and communities who will be irreparably harmed by the proposed changes to the naturalization process.
Plaintiffs are the City of Seattle and five naturalization legal service providers who serve low-income, citizenship-eligible legal permanent residents: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Central American Resource Center of California (CARECEN), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), OneAmerica, and Self-Help for the Elderly.
- Complaint: City of Seattle v. DHS (Oct. 29, 2019)
- Preliminary Injunction Motion: City of Seattle v. DHS (Nov. 6, 2019)
- Amended Complaint: City of Seattle v. DHS ( Nov. 6, 2019)
- Lawsuit filed challenging DHS policy designed to keep legal immigrants from becoming citizens (October 30, 2019)
- Protect Democracy announces plans to challenge rules change proposal (October 25, 2019)