Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2014
President Obama’s executive action on immigration last week created a pathway for millions of people in the country illegally to win work permits and live without fear of deportation.
It also created a new opening for scam artists.
With some questions remaining about how the plan will work, government officials, advocacy groups and bar associations are warning those in the country without legal status to consult only licensed attorneys and others authorized to provide legal advice on immigration matters.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is urging potential applicants to “beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application” before the agency releases details on the process, which could extend temporary protections for up to 5 million people.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris plans to issue a consumer alert Tuesday warning against “con artists emerging to prey on vulnerable consumers seeking help with immigration services.”
There may be as many as 2,500 people unlawfully filing immigration paperwork or providing immigration advice in California, said Rigo Reyes, chief of investigations at Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
That number could grow, he said.
“Consumers risk losing not just their money but also their dream,” Reyes said. “People are paying thousands of dollars for something that can eventually lead to deportation.”
The problem–sometimes referred to as “notario fraud”–is not new.
Since passage of the 1986 amnesty bill, which opened the door to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country without authorization, scammers have offered to help unsuspecting people get work permits, file asylum claims and apply for other types of relief, often to the detriment of their cases, officials say.
The American Immigration Lawyers Assn. recently issued public service announcements warning immigrants against those who “promise immediate action in order to steal your money.”