Senate bill may add costly fees for those seeking citizenship - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Senate bill may add costly fees for those seeking citizenship

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Amarillo, TX - Many are concerned about new fines being added to citizenship application fees, as President Obama makes steps towards immigration reform.

This could affect thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Panhandle area.

Immigrants and their advocates say extra financial costs could push citizenship out of reach for many families.

The current cost of citizenship is $680, a proposed senate bill would add fines of up to $2,000.

We spoke with a local immigration attorney, Zelda Howell, about how difficult theses imposed fees would be for immigrants.

"Immigration reform would probably raise the fees for everyone because they impose and penalties raise the fee for people who are legalizing. So it would make it that much harder for people who are currently eligible to become citizens to become citizens."

New research by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that only 46% of Hispanic immigrants, eligible to become a citizen have done so.

 An immigration counselor, Al Muniz, says one of the top reasons is a lack of money.

"That is a lot of money for a lot of people, they don't have a way of to become citizen and that is the reason they are not citizens, because they would love to become citizens for this country."

Howell thinks there should be some sort of fee waver for those who can't afford it.

"There should be a fee wavier for people who simply do not have enough money for whatever reason and can prove it to immigration to apply for citizenship and when reform is passed not raising the fee for people who are currently eligible"

Supporters of the penalty fees say they are necessary to show any reform package does not warrant entering the US illegally.