USCIS Gets an Easy $100 million from TPS Roll-Over for Salvadorans

By David North on March 7, 2012

Suppose you have an absolute and un-regulated monopoly on a product that your customers simply must have — like insulin for diabetics in the old days before other remedies became available.

Isn't that a license to print money?

Well, USCIS does not talk about it that way, but it has a similar monopoly on a similar product as far as 212,000 otherwise illegal aliens from El Salvador are concerned. These are the people who are in the (apparently permanent) amnesty of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Once upon a time there was an earthquake in that country and all its illegals in this country at the time were granted, and continue to be granted, emergency legal status. The earthquake was in 2001.

Ah, but it is not a permanent amnesty, it is a temporary one, one that is renewed by the DHS Secretary every 18 months, and every time that happens all the otherwise illegal aliens from that tiny Central American nation have to sign up again to preserve their TPS papers.

And that's when the bonanza arrives for fee-supported USCIS. Every one of those 212,000 Salvadorans has to apply to the agency for permission to stay, legally, for another 18 months. Every one of them must pay an $85 biometric fee, for the fingerprinting and related processes, and every one of them — whether they want or need or have a job — has to file for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that costs $380.

Yes, USCIS has to process a lot of paper, but this is a totally no-think operation that can be handled by clerks and computers. With a handful of exceptions, the renewal applications can be rubber-stamped; there is no need for any adjudicators to spend time weighing the pros and cons of the eligibility of the applicants. They are here, they are alive, they have not obtained any other legal status, they have previous TPS documents, typically there is no interview — what's to decide?

But if you multiply 212,000 by $465 ($85+ $380) you get $98,580,000, a nice piece of change for any agency.

The $98,580,000 is, however, the ceiling because USCIS offers to waive the fees if the applicant files a plausible request and the agency usually says "yes" to such applications.

In the past a fee-waiver applicant had to write a letter covering certain points if he or she wanted not to pay; then USCIS devised a form to make the process easier, as I described in an earlier blog.

In the most recent announcement the government made the fee-waiver process still easier, offering to consider either the waiver form (I-912) or a personal letter.

For more information than you would ever want on this year's TPS renewal for people from El Salvador, see the most recent Federal Register announcement.

I suppose one could see a silver lining in all this. Most groupings of 212,000 illegal aliens, after all, are not paying the government $100 million every 18 months to stay in the country. They get a free ride.