Topics

Help Stop USCIS Genealogy Program Fee Hikes


Renée K. Carl
 

Building off of Jan Meisels Allen's 15 Nov post (https://groups.jewishgen.org/g/main/message/1150), I have more information to share on the outrageous proposal by USCIS Genealogy Program to raise the cost of accessing documents by more than 400%. An ad hoc group of genealogists, historians, and records access advocates have compiled a summary of the issues, information on the USCIS Genealogy program, and 3 easy steps you can take to help stop this fee hike.

Visit RecordsNotRevenue.com and please take a few minutes to post your comments on the fee hikes at the Federal Rulemaking Portal (not here!). All you need to know and all the links are located at RecordsNotRevenue.com.

Equally important, please share this information with your local JGS and other genealogy groups, historians, etc. This issue is important beyond the USCIS records. If it can happen to those records, it can happen to others!

Thank you for your time and assistance!
Renee K. Carl
Washington DC


Bob Bloomberg
 

400% is of course outrageous.  But it seems a bit ironic that an organization that charges $100 to see SIG information is complaining about high costs.


jbonline1111@...
 

Bob Bloomberg, you are comparing apples and oranges.  You, like the rest of us, can see SIG results, just not the latest ones if you choose not to contribute or cannot contribute. Even with a volunteer organization, there are always costs associated with any initiative.  I've been on the boards of several volunteer groups.  You'd be surprised what it costs to maintain them, even when volunteers do most of the work.


David Lewin
 

As I see it, RecordsNotRevenue.com is directed at US citizen.    This is an International problem, not an American one.

Please will you make a Petition place for all researchers to use

David Lewin
London


At 14:16 20/11/2019, Renée K. Carl wrote:
Building off of Jan Meisels Allen's 15 Nov post ( https://groups.jewishgen.org/g/main/message/1150), I have more information to share on the outrageous proposal by USCIS Genealogy Program to raise the cost of accessing documents by more than 400%. An ad hoc group of genealogists, historians, and records access advocates have compiled a summary of the issues, information on the USCIS Genealogy program, and 3 easy steps you can take to help stop this fee hike.

Visit RecordsNotRevenue.com and please take a few minutes to post your comments on the fee hikes at the Federal Rulemaking Portal (not here!). All you need to know and all the links are located at RecordsNotRevenue.com .

Equally important, please share this information with your local JGS and other genealogy groups, historians, etc. This issue is important beyond the USCIS records. If it can happen to those records, it can happen to others!

Thank you for your time and assistance!
Renee K. Carl
Washington DC


Renée K. Carl
 

Hello David
Thank you for looking at the information. You do not need to be a US resident nor citizen to submit a public comment. Any interested party can make their voice heard. It does not matter if you live in the USA or another location. The only part that is for US residents is writing to Congress. 

The only way to impact the rulemaking process is to submit comments at the Federal portal.

You can make a difference. Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:

Step 1Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the Genealogy Program section here. There’s a summary available at RecordsNotRevenue.com

Step 2Write your comments, addressing the issues listed here or any issue you think is important. See these conversation starters for thoughts on how to begin. 

Step 3Send your comments BEFORE 16 DECEMBER 2019 to

    • Federal Rulemaking Portal and refer to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010 and follow instructions for submitting comments; and
    • Send a copy of your comments to your US Senators and Representative, and refer to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010. Tell them you care about preserving access to federal records!
Only part B of this last step is for US residents. Everyone can help with sending comments to the Rulemaling Portal.

Thank you 
Renée 


On Fri, 22 Nov 2019, 12:23 am David Lewin, <david@...> wrote:
As I see it, RecordsNotRevenue.com is directed at US citizen.    This is an International problem, not an American one.

Please will you make a Petition place for all researchers to use

David Lewin
London


At 14:16 20/11/2019, Renée K. Carl wrote:
Building off of Jan Meisels Allen's 15 Nov post ( https://groups.jewishgen.org/g/main/message/1150), I have more information to share on the outrageous proposal by USCIS Genealogy Program to raise the cost of accessing documents by more than 400%. An ad hoc group of genealogists, historians, and records access advocates have compiled a summary of the issues, information on the USCIS Genealogy program, and 3 easy steps you can take to help stop this fee hike.

Visit RecordsNotRevenue.com and please take a few minutes to post your comments on the fee hikes at the Federal Rulemaking Portal (not here!). All you need to know and all the links are located at RecordsNotRevenue.com .

Equally important, please share this information with your local JGS and other genealogy groups, historians, etc. This issue is important beyond the USCIS records. If it can happen to those records, it can happen to others!

Thank you for your time and assistance!
Renee K. Carl
Washington DC


Marilen Pitler
 

Has any grope put up a petition to sign? There are people who may prefer signing a petition then writing letters.


Sarah L Meyer
 

Will someone please post the email address or form to fill in to send comments?  Yes I will copy my senators and representatives.  I have read the conversation starters.  And the contact us page on the federal register said not for comments on regulations.  Personally at $65 for a search and then $65 for the record, the cost is already very unreasonable.  The record cost should be something like 50c/page with a limit of $65.  And there should be a way to cut the search costs as well.    The only thing that raising these costs by 400% will do - which is 1200% of three years ago is to put the whole program into a death spiral.  In fact the tripling three years ago probably started the spiral.
Sarah


Renée K. Carl
 

It is not possible to submit a petition. A petition would not help the effort. The only way to make a difference in this case is to submit online comments through the Federal Rulemaking Portal.
Here are a couple ideas to help you start your statement:
--These records are important to me because...
--I have ordered ___ records from the USCIS Genealogy Program and found out the following great information...
--I think the $625 fee hike is outrageous because...
--Without these records, I would never have known/seen...

Thank you for taking the extra time to write a statement and submit it to the Federal Rulemaking Portal. Even a short letter will make a difference.
Renee


Renée K. Carl
 

Hi Sarah
I created this image to show you where the "Comment" button is
(attached). It's not easy to spot.
Thank you for helping!
Renee


On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 1:35 PM <sarahlmeyer@...> wrote:

Will someone please post the email address or form to fill in to send comments? Yes I will copy my senators and representatives. I have read the conversation starters. And the contact us page on the federal register said not for comments on regulations. Personally at $65 for a search and then $65 for the record, the cost is already very unreasonable. The record cost should be something like 50c/page with a limit of $65. And there should be a way to cut the search costs as well. The only thing that raising these costs by 400% will do - which is 1200% of three years ago is to put the whole program into a death spiral. In fact the tripling three years ago probably started the spiral.
Sarah


Bob Bloomberg
 

You want to cut the costs of getting records from USCIS, but charge $100 to get the records from JewishGen's Lithuania SIG.  Anybody see the inconsistency?


Renée K. Carl
 

Bob, I do not work for nor do I represent JewishGen. Also please note
that #LitvakSIG is a separate 501c3 organization that coordinates with
JewishGen.
I am a researcher like many people on this message board, and I am a
volunteer helping to advocate to stop the fee hikes to the USCIS
Genealogy Program, which is run by the federal government.


On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:49 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:

You want to cut the costs of getting records from USCIS, but charge $100 to get the records from JewishGen's Lithuania SIG. Anybody see the inconsistency?


Bob Bloomberg
 

I was not addressing my comment to you, and I apologize if you took it that way..  I was pointing out the inconsistency of JewishGen advocating for lower fees when they charge an exorbitant amount to get current information.

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:01 PM Renée Carl <rkcarl@...> wrote:
Bob, I do not work for nor do I represent JewishGen. Also please note
that #LitvakSIG is a separate 501c3 organization that coordinates with
JewishGen.
I am a researcher like many people on this message board, and I am a
volunteer helping to advocate to stop the fee hikes to the USCIS
Genealogy Program, which is run by the federal government.

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:49 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:
>
> You want to cut the costs of getting records from USCIS, but charge $100 to get the records from JewishGen's Lithuania SIG.  Anybody see the inconsistency?


Renée K. Carl
 

JewishGen is not the advocate here. I am, along with other volunteers.


On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:06 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:

I was not addressing my comment to you, and I apologize if you took it that way.. I was pointing out the inconsistency of JewishGen advocating for lower fees when they charge an exorbitant amount to get current information.

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:01 PM Renée Carl <rkcarl@...> wrote:

Bob, I do not work for nor do I represent JewishGen. Also please note
that #LitvakSIG is a separate 501c3 organization that coordinates with
JewishGen.
I am a researcher like many people on this message board, and I am a
volunteer helping to advocate to stop the fee hikes to the USCIS
Genealogy Program, which is run by the federal government.

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:49 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:

You want to cut the costs of getting records from USCIS, but charge $100 to get the records from JewishGen's Lithuania SIG. Anybody see the inconsistency?


Bob Bloomberg
 

But JewishGen is the forum and platform on which this discussion is happening--unless you believe JewishGen supports the increases?

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:08 PM Renée Carl <rkcarl@...> wrote:
JewishGen is not the advocate here. I am, along with other volunteers.

On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:06 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:
>
> I was not addressing my comment to you, and I apologize if you took it that way..  I was pointing out the inconsistency of JewishGen advocating for lower fees when they charge an exorbitant amount to get current information.
>
> On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:01 PM Renée Carl <rkcarl@...> wrote:
>>
>> Bob, I do not work for nor do I represent JewishGen. Also please note
>> that #LitvakSIG is a separate 501c3 organization that coordinates with
>> JewishGen.
>> I am a researcher like many people on this message board, and I am a
>> volunteer helping to advocate to stop the fee hikes to the USCIS
>> Genealogy Program, which is run by the federal government.
>>
>> On Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:49 PM Bob Bloomberg <rpbrpb2012@...> wrote:
>> >
>> > You want to cut the costs of getting records from USCIS, but charge $100 to get the records from JewishGen's Lithuania SIG.  Anybody see the inconsistency?


Avraham Groll
 

Bob - 

Thank you for participating on the JewishGen.org Discussion Group. To clarify two points:

  1. JewishGen.org is offered as a free resource to the Jewish community. These forums, along with our archival collections, and informational resources, are offered at no charge. But we do ask that people help support our work, if they are in a position to do so. To learn more about getting involved with supporting our important work, please click here.
  2. The JewishGen.org Discussion Group is designed to bring Jewish genealogical researchers together and to help connect them with others who share a similar interest.  We encourage a diversity of opinions and do not censor posts that are related to Jewish Genealogy. Please note that JewishGen does not independently check the accuracy of information that is contributed/posted. Each member of the JewishGen Discussion Group, as a condition to be a Member, disclaims and releases JewishGen from any liability based on the use and posting of any information on this Discussion Group. 

I wish you all the best with your research. For any further questions, please contact support@....

Avraham Groll
Executive Director
JewishGen.org


amy wachs
 

Bob Bloomberg complained about genealogists' concern about the pending price increase of USCIS records by wrongly asserting that LitvakSIG charges $100 to get records.  LitvakSIG is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers.  We have been engaged for more than 20 years in the very costly and time-consuming mission of finding and translating surviving Jewish records in Lithuanian archives.  We have translated more than a million records, and have made them available to the public at no charge on LitvakSIG's All Lithuania Database.  The All Lithuania Database is freely-searchable via JewishGen or LitvakSIG's website.  The process of translating archival records is expensive, and LitvakSIG engages in fund-raising to be able to fund this important work.   We value and appreciate our donors.  Qualified contributors of $100 to a specific LitvakSIG project receive certain benefits, including early access to newly translated records before they are added to the freely-searchable All Lithuania Database.  
Amy Wachs


Marion Werle
 

Bob,

LitvakSIG membership in a District Research Group (DRG) is a multiyear membership (5 years) which supports the translation and acquisition costs of Lithuanian Jewish records. It makes the records available to DRG members via spreadsheets as soon as they are translated and compiled. After 18 months, they are made available free to everybody on the LitvakSIG website and on JewishGen, so there is a huge number of records freely available, since the SIG has been in existence for 25 years.

This doesn't even remotely compare to the proposed USCIS per record search and individual file charges which far exceed that of a 5-year DRG membership.

Marion Werle
<werleme@...>
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab


Bob Bloomberg
 

Marion,

I agree.  It does not remotely compare to the USCIS costs.

But my point is that Litvack records are NOT free.  You have to pay $100 or wait 18 months to get new records. That is NOT free.  

Yes, a lot of time and effort have gone in to compiling and digitizing these records.  The same can be said for the Internet Archive, the Hathi Trust, the Library of Congress, Harvard University and endless other repositories of records.  They are supported by donations, legacies, etc.  That way everybody gets equal access, and no one is left out because they can't afford $100.

On Mon, Nov 25, 2019 at 12:01 PM Marion Werle <werleme@...> wrote:
Bob,

LitvakSIG membership in a District Research Group (DRG) is a multiyear membership (5 years) which supports the translation and acquisition costs of Lithuanian Jewish records. It makes the records available to DRG members via spreadsheets as soon as they are translated and compiled. After 18 months, they are made available free to everybody on the LitvakSIG website and on JewishGen, so there is a huge number of records freely available, since the SIG has been in existence for 25 years.

This doesn't even remotely compare to the proposed USCIS per record search and individual file charges which far exceed that of a 5-year DRG membership.

Marion Werle
<werleme@...>
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab


Marion Werle
 

Bob,

Genealogy is not free - acquisition, translation and compilation of record sets incurs costs. Writing directly to an Archives incurs costs. Ordering records from an agency incurs costs. JewishGen doesn't charge for services, and is staffed mainly with volunteers, but incurs costs for permanent staff and server infrastructure (housed at Ancestry),  among other things. FamilySearch is supported by the LDS Church. Ancestry and MyHeritage are subscription websites, but can be accessed for free in many libraries. Not every resource that a genealogist needs is free or supported by a foundation. Professional genealogists charge for their time because it's how they make their living and they incur costs as well. 

Not all LitvakSIG research groups are actively translating records at this point, since known records may already have been translated and are publically available for free. When you access these records, you are reaping the benefits of previous contributors. And 18 months goes by quickly, even if you aren't a subscriber. 

As for USCIS, the proposed fee increases far exceed what is reasonable for a government agency.

Marion Werle
<werleme@...>
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab


Chuck Weinstein
 

Just to add my two kopecks to this discussion, JewishGen is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose rules prevent it from lobbying or taking a political position.  The resources from JewishGen are freely available to all with donors receiving some extra perks in search aids.  Litvak SIG is a separate organization, but their databases are also freely available via JewishGen.  Their donors get advance abilities to search recent additions to their databases.  There is nothing hidden behind paywalls through either organization.  That is irrelevant to the discussion of federal cost increases that will effectively eliminate taxpayer funded material from public view.  USCIS is a government agency which holds files that are very useful for genealogical purposes and help family historians break though many brick walls.  Their genealogy service has provided much useful information, but the proposed costs will significantly cut down usage of the service, which, based on experience, will lead to it being eliminated in the future.  That seems to be part of the plan.  Conflating government services provided at a profit to the US Government with services provided by a non-profit organization that depends on donations to survive is neither useful nor correct.  It is up to you as to whether or not you wish to comment to the government about the proposed increases in costs, but you are way off base in criticizing JewishGen and other non profits for asking people to donate a small amount for immediate or easier access to data that is otherwise freely available.  I am neither a spokesperson nor an officer of JewishGen, Inc., just a researcher who is a donor, but appreciates the services provided over the years in helping me with my family history.

Chuck Weinstein
Bellport, NY
chuck1@...