By: Tony Best
It has happened before and there is a good reason to worry they may strike again.
They are crooked “advisers” sensing a chance to rip-off clients by offering a costly but fraudulent service with promises of a quick legalization that would prevent them from being deported to their homeland.
But Andrew Cuomo, New York State’s governor, is about to make the scammers, some of them attorneys, think twice about any plans to steal thousands of dollars from foreign born residents by offering them easy navigation through the thicket of often complicated immigration rules and regulations.
He plans to announce this week the introduction of a multi-media and community based immigration advisory service designed to prevent the undocumented from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific and other parts of the world from falling victim to unscrupulous practitioners who are seeking to take advantage of the immigration initiative announced recently by President Obama.
Under the President’s plan, young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday but had become illegal aliens can be permitted to stay in the country, provided they are students in schools, serving in the military and don’t have a criminal record. But they must apply for the long-sought concession
But past experience has shown that so-called immigration ‘consultants’ promise the undocumented to get them through the web of rules by skirting the law while charging exorbitant fees for their services. But the Governor is planning to hire a battery of lawyers to work with community based organizations and institutions to applicants who meet the requirements to work and hold a driver’s license while at the same time gaining federal permission to remain in the country.
The Cuomo initiative which is being financed by a $600,000 allocation would include a comprehensive multi-lingual news media outreach campaign, an immigration hotline that provides information to callers about the requirements to qualify. It would also steer them to legitimate community organizations that could help them.
As Cesar Perales, New York’s Secretary of State, sees it the Obama immigration plan and people’s desire to change their status can trigger an avalanche of fraud that would prove costly to people but fail to get them the cherished legal status.
“I think there is going to be a great deal of fraud, and these young people are going to need a great deal of helping responding with the kinds of documents the federal government is going to require of them,” said Perales. “It became clear to us that this is going to be a golden opportunity for scammers.”
Already, people are complaining that the United States Customs and Immigration Service is declining to accept their applications for a change of status on the grounds that many immigrants hadn’t completed the process for what is being called “deferred action.”
“It is not enough to say to people, be careful, some people will take your money,” Perales told reporters. “What we’re saying is we’re providing an alternative mechanism. That is what distinguishes what New York State wants to do from others who just warn you.”
New York State Senator Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s task force on “New Americans” said that while Governor Cuomo’s approach was important, a “valuable first step,” what was urgently needed was enactment of the Dream Act which would guarantee people life-time permission to stay in the country.
“What the Governor is doing is valuable but there needs to be some muscle put into the process to guarantee the young people the opportunity to continue their education without fearing deportation,” Parker said at an editorial board meeting of the New York Carib News. “The real answer is the Dream Act.”
Since President Obama announced the initiative large numbers of people have been collecting documents to apply for a change in status and the worry is growing that the application process may be complicated and that why some of them to turn to scammers for help.