Immigrants, especially the undocumented, have been the victim of fraud for a long time but immigrant rights advocates say they’ve seen a recent rise in cases due to confusion over the back and forth and lack of action from Congress in passing comprehensive immigration reform.
“Its really sad because they put the trust in someone they think is going to help them and they pay them a lot of money,” said immigration rights advocate, Raul Alfaro.
He says a growing number of immigrants are falling victim to scams from attorneys and consultants selling their services, telling them they can be put in line for a path to citizenship under immigration reform.
“You have immigration consultants and attorneys advertising, signing up clients and taking their money to prepare their paper work in case immigration reform passes and basically what they’re saying is you’ll be first in line, the problem is there is no line,” stressed California Assemblywoman for District 80, Lorena Gonzalez.
Immigration reform has yet to be voted on in Congress and its still unclear whether it will even include a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
She’s now leading the effort to pass a California state bill that would provide immigrants some protections from fraud.
Her bill would make it illegal for attorneys or so called consultants to demand money from clients seeking legalization under immigration reform if it passes and is enacted.
It also requires attorney contracts be translated to a clients’ native language and it expands current law to prohibit attorneys or anybody from advertising themselves as ‘notario,’ a term used in some Latin American countries for professionals with similar roles to attorneys.
But not everyone is in favor of the bill; Attorneys with the American Immigration Lawyers Association say the language is too broad, so much so, it would make it illegal to provide immigrants the help they may need to avoid deportation.
“And that’s our concern,” said immigration Attorney Tammy Lin, “because it overly restricts our ability to practice and to prepare and make sure that everything goes well,” she added.
The bill is now headed to the senate judiciary committee for a vote, Monday.