Speak out against USCIS fee hike!

Today, December 23, there is just one week to go.

One week to speak out.

One week to say that a public agency raising fees for public records well beyond the reach of any average citizen is just not acceptable.

One week to join The Legal Genealogist and so many others in opposing the proposal by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to raise fees for genealogical records from the current maximum of $130 to anywhere from a low of $240 to as much as $625 — for a single record.1

The deadline for public comments on the rule is now December 30, 2019. That’s next Monday. One week from today.

Our community is mobilizing. Societies are asking their members to join in the fight; national genealogical groups are gathering support from members and member societies;2 even the Board for Certification of Genealogists has weighed in.3 U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has spoken out on the issue as well,4 and has the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.5

And all of that still isn’t enough.

Not without each and every one of us speaking out to preserve the genealogical gift we have: reasonable public access to public records.

speak out now

Here again is how to make sure each of us has our voice heard:

First: read the proposed rule that changes the fees (it’s online at the Federal Register here, and the section on the fees in the Genealogy Program begins on page 587 here).

Second: Put together your thoughts about why this proposed fee hike is a bad idea. There is great information at the Records, Not Revenue website about this and ideas about what to include. You can also read the comments that have already been posted about this proposal at the online portal of the Federal Register here. (Search within the comments for the word “genealogy” to see what others are saying about these specific fees.) Write out what you want to say and have it ready to upload (the comment system is online, or you can comment in writing by mail, to Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Mailstop #2140, Washington, DC 20529-2140, and reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010 in your correspondence). Be sure to specifically mention that you’re commenting on the fees for the Genealogy Program. Otherwise the comment may be lost in the mass of comments opposing other proposed fee increases.

Third: Post your comment to the online Federal Register comment system here. The reference number is DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010 — make sure to follow all the instructions, and then check on the Federal Register portal comment page to be sure yours posted.

Fourth: Send a copy of your comments to the two United States Senators from your state and to the member of the House of Representatives for your district. You can get names and contact information for your Senators at Senate.gov and for your House member at House.gov.

Fifth and last: Recruit your fellow genealogists-librarians-historians-researchers-news media friends to join in. This impacts all researchers — and we need to stand together on this.

Records access is a precious gift that we have as genealogists and as citizens. Reasonable fees for reasonable public access to public records — fine.6 But unreasonable fees that put essential records out of reach for average Americans? Not fine. Not at all.

Join me in speaking out.

We only have one week left if we hope to be heard on this.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “One week left,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 23 Dec 2019).

SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Records, not revenue,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 Nov 2019, “Fight the fee hikes,” posted 2 Dec 2019, and “A little more time,” posted 13 Dec 2019 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 23 Dec 2019).
  2. See e.g. “USCIS Outrageous Fee Increase,” FGS Voice, posted 9 Dec 2019, Federation of Genealogical Societies (https://fgs.org : accessed 23 Dec 2019).
  3. See LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, CGL, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Proposed Fee Increases,” SpringBoard blog, posted 3 Dec 2019, Board for Certification of Genealogists (https://bcgcertification.org/ : accessed 23 Dec 2019).
  4. See e.g. Matthew Brown, “Sen. Mitt Romney questions fee hikes that will hit family history researchers hard,” Deseret News, posted 11 Dec 2019 (https://www.deseret.com/ : accessed 23 Dec 2019).
  5. NAGARA Expresses Opposition to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Proposed Fee Increases,” News Room, posted 19 Dec 2019, National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (https://www.nagara.org/ : accessed 23 Dec 2019).
  6. We don’t like paying fees but we get it — there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and taxpayers aren’t required to pay for our genealogy efforts.
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