At present, fees for appellate review of decisions by Immigration Judges, as well as for motions to reopen removal orders, is set at $110. There is no fee currently to file a motion to reconsider with an immigration judge. This is a manageable fee for individuals who seek to review erroneous decisions by immigration judges. And with the Trump administration’s attacks on long-standing asylum laws and policies, this has been an important aspect of the judicial process – and access to justice, generally.
However, a draft Department of Justice regulation that has been obtained by BuzzFeed News is reporting a proposed fee of $975 to review an immigration judge’s ruling, and $895 to file a motion to reopen or reconsider. This comes only a short time after the announcement that three notoriously harsh immigration judges have been promoted to the pivotal role of Board of Immigration Appeals Members, and days after the Supreme Court terminated an injunction that prevented the government from denying asylum to those individuals who pass through third countries, and do not apply for asylum before reaching the United States, among other attacks on asylum law. Respondents can apply for fee waivers; however, a denial of a fee waiver is tantamount to rejection of an appeal – which can affect an individual’s ability to receive a decision from the appellate court. Missing a deadline is an easy way for the Board to dismiss an appeal.
More than just an increase in fees and financial burden on respondents, the proposed fee increase to nearly 9 times the current rate presents a serious problem to immigrants seeking protection. It is an attack on an individual’s right to seek judicial review, and an attack on due process in general. The Department of Justice proposal attempts to make the fees so prohibitively expensive, that the average individual – especially asylum applicants and detainees – will not be able to afford the fees, let alone afford an attorney to continue to represent them in the appellate process.
This is another step forward in the Trump administration’s deportation machine. As the President and his advisors have said many times, they believe our country is “full.” The past two Attorney Generals have made irrational and legally erroneous decisions outside of the procedural norm in order to tear down our clients’ rights to seek asylum. And the most important part of fighting against these illogical decisions is through the appellate process. Even now, appeals are often pending for two years or more due to increased need for judicial review of unjust policies and opinions. But raising the fees, and burdening individuals from an economic perspective, is one more attempt by the administration to prevent individuals from fighting for what is right.
The Fogle Law Firm has had significant successes in appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as the Circuit Courts. Judicial review is an incredibly important aspect of achieving justice for our clients. But prohibitively high government fees will prevent many from accessing justice and receiving a truly fair decision. This is also why a truly independent Article III Immigration Court is imperative to establish, so that unilateral executive decisions cannot be made to impair access to justice.
Contact the Fogle Law Firm with respect to your immigration needs, especially with respect to appeals.
Written by Mary Lynn Tedesco