Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to Mr. George Takei. I chose him because I thought that this issue might interest him as the child of immigrants and as an activist concerned with policies that affect immigrants. After all, what is genealogy but an attempt to learn about immigrants? Whether we got here via boat, border crossing, or ancient land bridge, every single American is an immigrant. That isn't a political statement on my part. There isn't a single one of us whose people sprouted out of American soil like grass. Even if you arrived on the Mayflower, you *arrived* in this beautiful land from somewhere else. Genealogy is how we learn about those amazing ancestors of ours.
I don't know if Mr. Takei will receive my e-mail; it's not exactly easy to find the e-mail address for a famous actor and activist. I probably would have had a better chance of success if I'd sent it via snail mail to his company, but time is short... so here is a copy of the letter I tried to send:
Dear Mr. Takei,
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I've always been a huge fan, but I'm writing to you not as a fan, but as a fellow child of immigrants. Learning about where my people come from helps me learn about who I am as a person and as an American. USCIS is trying to shut down our ability to access information about our immigrant forebearers. It used to cost $85 ($20 for a records search + $65 for the records). They want to raise that to $625 per record! Please see https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/14/2019-24366/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration#p-587. This is information that should already be available via FOIA and available *for free* at NARA. I've been an amateur genealogist for more than 20 years and can tell you that sometimes this is the ONLY way to find out about our hard-to-find ancestors!
Mr. Takei, I'm begging you. Two years ago I sent away for information about my father's grandfather who immigrated to America between sometime between 1900 (I think) and 1910. They sent me a response saying that my great-grandfather's file had been misplaced, but they find misfiled records "all the time" and told me to try again in a "few years." If this rate hike passes, I might never be able to find out about my great-grandfather! What ordinary person can afford $625 for what might turn out to be a single piece of paper? I don't understand why they are doing this. Do they want us to forget that nearly every American is descended from immigrants? Do they just not want us to have access to information? I'm sure that you have much more important matters on your mind, but I would be incredibly grateful if you would look into this and see if you think it is worth lending your voice which is so much more powerful than mine (or any genealogist's).
More information about the history and why we care can be found at www.recordsnotrevenue.com and mailchi.mp/reclaimtherecords/for-black-friday-we-raised-our-fees-by-492-percent. Thank you again for your time.