WASHINGTON (July 18, 2012) — There is growing concern of the potential for immigration fraud by immigration consultants, also known as “notarios” who claim they can assist applicants with the deferred action process to undocumented youth is a looming threat to new Americans.
The warning was issued Wednesday by the organizations, Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, Asian Law Caucus, Asian American Institute, Asian American Justice Center and Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
“Unfortunately, we know that when immigration relief becomes available, dishonest individuals may take advantage of immigrants’ vulnerable situations,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of AAJC. “Individuals should be careful about where they seek advice with the deferred action process.”
Legal advice and representation can only be given by licensed attorneys and accredited representatives, the organizations caution. Given that the process to apply is not yet available, immigration advocates and community-based organizations are warning immigrant communities to be wary of those who advertise that they can help individuals for a fee before the application process is even available. The practice of individuals providing legal advice when they are not qualified to do so is called the “unauthorized practice of law.”
“We have seen many examples of immigrant communities being defrauded by unscrupulous individuals who see this as an opportunity to cash in,” said Hyeon-Ju Rho, executive director of ALC. “The best way to keep informed on the developments of deferred action is to contact trusted community-based organizations and immigration advocates who are providing up-to-date information free of charge.”
Advancing Justice is working with community-based organizations and immigrant advocacy organizations to assist individuals in locating resources when deferred action becomes available.
The anticipated date for the application process on deferred action is expected August 14. Until then immigration advocates are urging individuals to start gathering their documents in preparation for the application process, including school records, medical records, passports, birth certificates and financial records.
For individuals with a criminal history, immigration advocates strongly advise speaking with an experienced immigration attorney before attempting to file for deferred action. Often times, individuals are not aware of the implications of their criminal history on potential immigration relief until it is too late. It is important to seek qualified legal advice before attempting to apply for any type of immigration relief.
“We encourage undocumented youth and their families to call our offices for assistance and to locate resources in their area,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of APALC.
The eligibility requirements for deferred action are as follows:
• Have come to the United States under the age of 16;
• Have continuously resided in the United States for 5 years preceding the date of President Obama’s announcement (June 15, 2012) and are present in the United States;
• Currently be in school, have graduated high school, or obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
• Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
• Be 30 years of age or younger.
Immigrants who think they may qualify for such relief can contact the Los Angeles-based APALC for questions at 888-349-9695 and [email protected]. In addition, APALC can provide assistance in the following languages: Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) 800-520-2356; Khmer 800-867-3126; Korean 800-867-3640; Thai 800-914-9583; and Vietnamese 800-267-7395.
The U.S. government has established a centralized system to collect complaints on the unauthorized practice of law. To file a complaint on the unauthorized practice of law contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (www.advancingjustice.org) works to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities, and is comprised of the Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), the Asian American Institute (www.aaichicago.org), the Asian Law Caucus (www.asianlawcaucus.org) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (www.apalc.org).