The Price Is Right

One of the things that liberals — along with the liberal media — have inculcated in the American psyche is the notion of entitlement. That is, people are entitled to things — even things they have not earned. Lately, this entitlementarian attitude has been especially prevalent in the way that immigration news is reported.

For instance, here is how, on February 19, the Associated Press reported the news that soon the fees for immigration applications would be raised. It began with: “Supporting herself and a 7-year-old son on a preschool teacher’s salary in suburban Marin County, one of the nation’s priciest housing markets, keeps [the immigrant named in the report] on a tight budget. One expense she can’t control is the rising cost of filing the forms she needs to work and travel in the United States while she waits to become a permanent resident. Those fees have already pushed her careful bookkeeping into the red….”

Neither in those words nor in the rest of the report was there even a hint that immigration to America is only a privilege — and not a right. Or that immigration is a choice — a choice made by the immigrant.

If her budget is stretched so thin, then why is she still living in “one of the nation’s priciest housing markets”? There is plenty of cheaper housing available in the 3.6 million square miles of the U.S. that is outside of Marin County, California. Why are we asked to feel sorry for a foreigner who can’t make ends meet because she lives in an expensive area? If she finds the fees so objectionable, then she has a choice — she can return to her native country.

A naturalized American, I used to pay countless immigration fees (work permits, visa extensions, etc.) in the many years that preceded my naturalization. I considered myself a guest here — and not once did I think I was entitled to affordable fees. As a poor immigrant from the Third World, I was very thankful to America just for letting me in. I knew America had the absolute right to set immigration fees to whatever level it deemed proper. The choice was on me to pay the fees — or leave.

That AP report was occasioned by the recent proposal of the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that adjudicates immigration applications, to raise fees by some 66 percent. The current fee schedule is apparently based on a 1998 baseline.

According to the USCIS, the raise would defray, for instance, the improvements needed to reduce application processing delays. Besides, the current fees do not cover all the expenses of administering immigration benefits to foreigners. The USCIS loses $3 million a day due to such expenses — yes, $3 million every day.

Who pays when the USCIS runs up a deficit? Of course, the American taxpayer — you and me. It therefore makes complete sense that immigrants — the very people who ask for immigration benefits — should pay for the services.

But such logic is anathema to liberal entitlementarians, who are quick to portray the impending fee increase as an infringement of an entitlement. Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said, “Many in the immigrant community see the increase for what it is — increasing the cost of the American dream, telling those least fortunate among us they probably need not apply."

Of course, that is preposterous. The American dream has never been inexpensive — even for Americans. For instance, is there anyone who really thinks that the proverbial two-car garage home in the suburbs — the dream of many young couples — comes with no mortgage and no taxes? Of course not. The mortgage and the property taxes are the price of admission into that home. Likewise, immigration fees are the price of admission into this country.

For instance, the current fee for an application for naturalization is $400 (which includes $70 for fingerprint processing). The proposed fee would be $675 (including $80 for fingerprints). Think about that — a mere $675 for citizenship in the greatest country in the world. Since most applicants have to live here for five years before naturalization, they have five years to save $675 — hardly an onerous requirement. Furthermore, that is a one-time fee — pay it once, and you are a U.S. citizen for life. That is hardly the case with the various taxes that liberal politicians have enacted over the years — taxes that we keep paying until we die.

Finally, critics of the fee increase should consider what the so-called “coyotes” (smugglers) charge to bring people across the border from Mexico. People pay these smugglers several thousand dollars just to come here — illegally, at that. In comparison, a fee increase of several hundred dollars for legal permission to live and work here is not even worth debating.