According to an ABC news report dated November 27, 2014, there are now grave concerns that scammers will target vulnerable immigrants in the wake of President Obama’s reform of the immigration system.
President Obama’s executive order fans the flame of hope within two distinct groups of beneficiaries. They are:
- Immigrants who came to the United States as children
- The parents of U.S. citizens or resident aliens
The president’s objective is to keep families together, and it is a life-changing opportunity for a great many people. However, no sooner had the president announced his reform of the United States’ immigration system, in which nearly five million illegal immigrants are granted relief from the fear of deportation, than stories started to circulate about immigrants being scammed mercilessly.
Advocates for immigrants are concerned about potential scams, and one attorney in California, Ginger Jacobs, has recounted hearing frightening cases of people being duped.
Indeed, Mexican consular offices and California Attorney General Kamala Harris raised red flags in the wake of the president’s executive order. They know, from many years of experience, that immigrants have been scammed by crooked and venal consultants and attorneys who have guided them wrongly or disappeared with their money.
The number of illegal immigrants in the state of California is estimated at 2.4 million, and Harris was quick to release a warning that the president’s reform is a magnet for “con artists.” Harris advised immigrants to use licensed attorneys and advisers who are approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals within the United States Justice Department.
It is a fact that, wherever opportunity exists, there will be people who try to profit from it by unscrupulous means. Laura Vazquez understands this. A senior analyst on immigration law at the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group for Latinos, she acknowledges that all aspects of immigration tend to attract scam merchants. Vazquez notes that people trying to make their immigrant status legal are oftentimes apt to believe the lies and misinformation that are peddled.
Areas of Concern – Immigrants should be particularly cautious about:
- Phony consultants such as “notorios”
- Anyone who promises to help with applications right now: The details of the new policy are still being processed, and the changes and application process are many months away. No documents can be filed as yet, and no amount of money can ensure early filing of documents
- Identifying who qualifies for the reprieve: For example, unmarried adults who do not have children do not qualify, and they could be hoodwinked into thinking that they do
Getting the Warning Out: Advocacy Groups & Social Media
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles has been warning immigrants about potential scams, and they will continue to do so throughout Los Angeles. The group’s political director, Apolonio Morales, recommends that immigrants use “trusted community organizations.”
Along with advocacy groups, social media is also being used to warn immigrants about fraud. A San Diego Democrat, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez intends to propose a requirement for full disclosure from anyone who sells services related to immigration reform.
So far, reports of fraud have been few. However, many immigrants do not report fraud, because they do not know where to report it. According to statistics from the Federal Trade Commission, reports of immigration irregularities have fallen successively in 2012 and 2013. Nevertheless, it is thought that immigration fraud is under-reported.
Some immigrants are concerned that deportation could occur before the application process begins. Cesar Luna, an attorney, thinks it unlikely that an eligible immigrant would be deported, because officials will veer on the side of caution. Ginger Jacobs recommends that immigrants carry official documents such as children’s birth certificates as proof of eligibility.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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