(ESPAÑOL) Immigration fraud is on the rise in the new climate of immigratory uncertainty. More people are reporting paying anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to mysterious immigration assistants who only for the person inexplicably vanished.
Defrauding the undocumented has endured over the decades, but the uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s immigration policies has government agencies and advocacy groups worried that more people are getting swindled — or seeking out situations that are unscrupulous.
In addition, the legal wrangling over President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, which affects refugees and certain visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, has only added to the confusion and opened up the potential for fraud of visas, green cards and other documents, immigration advocates warn.
Scammers themselves are becoming shrewder.
With Trump’s policies encouraging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carry out deportation raids and frowning upon so-called “sanctuary cities,” New York officials have reported complaints of men posing as agents and wearing ICE-emblazoned jackets to shake down people for money.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the scheme “unconscionable.”
New York’s City Council passed a bill on Wednesday aimed at cracking down on these immigration scammers, forcing anyone offering immigration help to give the clients contracts stating the assistant is not authorized to give legal advice, along with posting a hotline for free legal advice and putting up signs in multiple languages stating that they are not lawyers. The bill also establishes fines for violating the law ranging from $500 to $10,000.
ICE says agents will never ask for money, much less threaten detainment or deportation because they weren’t paid.
Officials in Arizona also reported a similar telephone scheme perpetrated by fake federal immigration officers.
In Utah, the newly formed Refugee Justice League — made up of about 80 pro bono attorneys — is on alert for shady situations. The group has been hosting training events this month to inform refugees of their rights.
The Federal Trade Commission received roughly 1,100 complaints related to immigration services in fiscal year 2016. But since not everyone is willing to report bad experiences, instances of questionable motives or worse, criminal immigration fraud, can often fall through the cracks.