Following President Obama’s announcement of his immigration plan which includes protection from deportation for millions of immigrants, immigrant advocates warned against scammers who seek to profit from the program. Their modus operandi would be to promise immigrant families help in exchange for a fee.
The President’s series of executive actions which include the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is expected to grant deportation relief to approximately five million undocumented immigrants.
Under the DAPA program, “deferred action” is extended to qualified parents who have U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children who have resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. The DACA program launched in 2012 is also expanded to cover undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children but did not qualify under the initial program because of their age. The expansion would allow more immigrants to qualify under the program.
Applicants will undergo a thorough background check. Beneficiaries of the program would also be granted work authorization,
The United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the initiatives have not yet been implemented and that they are not yet accepting any requests or applications at this time.
The USCIS also warned against different scams such as telephone scams. Scammers, in such instances, would pose as USCIS personnel or other government officials and request personal information such as Social Security number, passport number, identify false problems on the individual’s immigration records and ask for payment to correct the records.
The agency also warned against advertisements in the internet, newspaper, radio and community bulletins offering immigration help. Many fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who pose as “Notario Publico” and offer legal services related to immigration. The USCIS stressed that notaries are not authorized to provide legal services relating to immigration. They are people appointed by state governments to witness the signing of an important document and administer oaths.
Some businesses may also advertise that they can “guarantee” a visa, green card, or employment authorization documents and can obtain it faster than when applying directly with the USCIS. They would charge a high fee.
Immigrant advocates advised that immigrants should seek information from legitimate legal service providers. They should seek reputable attorneys and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives working for BIA approved organizations. Heartland Alliance’s Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) further recommended that they should also not sign any document or pay anyone at this time for legal services.
A total of 891 complaints for immigration services were reported last year according to the Federal Trade Commission. This number is up from the 746 complaints reported in the previous year but less than the reported 1,220 complaints in 2011.
Dan Kowalski, editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, believes that it is too early to hire anyone since the government is not expected to publish applications for three to six months. He said that “There is no application date, there’s no form, there’s no procedure. Anyone who pays a dime is gambling.”
Individuals who qualify for the administrative relief may begin collecting necessary documents in preparation for the application process expected to start next year. Documents may include, among others, proof of identity, family relationship and presence in the US.
Immigrant families are warned that the wrong help would not only cost them money but would also hurt their chances of benefitting from the program.