With immigration legislation being postponed yet again until next year, scam artists are finding it easier to defraud immigrants because of confusion over what the immigration laws finally are. A fake company calling themselves American Legal Services was recently brought to court and ended up having to pay over $15 million. Immigrant advocates warn immigrants that fraud occurs everywhere and it is best to verify with an immigration attorney if they are unsure of how to proceed.
Back in 2008, Alberto Muniz stopped by a community clinic with his daughter and decided to check out a company advertising services for immigrants seeking permanent residency in the U.S. Muniz’s wife and family were already U.S. citizens but Muniz was still undocumented and working for a landscaping company at the time.
He went into the business to explain his situation and was promised guidance through the entire application process and preparation for his interview with immigration officials. He was also asked to pay $700 upfront and eventually $2,000. Muniz later found out he was one of dozens of victims who were defrauded by ALS.
The ALS owners were sued for lying to immigrants and taking their money when they knew their applications would be rejected. In some cases the immigrants had removal proceedings started against them without even knowing as no lawyers worked in the “consulting agency.” This case is only one public one of many where immigrants are taken advantage of for not having legal status.
The reality is that there are many fraudulent companies who are preying on immigrants. It’s hard to track data on these types of cases because it is difficult to track the companies especially if some people are deported or the scam artists flee the country. One lawyer working for California’s Attorney’s Office says, “It’s happening in every major city. The worst ones are happening in smaller, rural, agricultural communities where people can’t be tracked. It’s happening everywhere.”
If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.