Don’t Be A Victim of Immigration Fraud

Immigration laws are complicated and many may need help in representing them in immigration proceedings or in preparing and filing their petitions or applications with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

When seeking help, they should make sure that the person or organization assisting them is either a duly licensed attorney or an accredited representative that can legally represent them before the USCIS or other immigration agencies.

In an effort to prevent immigration fraud and other scams, the USCIS has issued a guide on how to verify if an attorney or an accredited representative is eligible to legally represent a client for immigration purposes.

In the case of an attorney, he/she must be in good standing with a U.S. state bar association and is not under any court order restricting his/her practice of law. The individual may ask the attorney proof of his/her attorney license or admission to the bar. This information may also be verified through the state bar admission office.

In the case of an accredited representative, he/she must work for an organization that has permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in the form of an Order to provide legal advice on immigration. A list of accredited representatives is found on the website of the Department of Justice.

Because of the spate of immigration scams and frauds perpetrated against hapless victims seeking to enter and remain in the U.S., the attorneys general of several states have sued fraudulent immigration service organizations, immigration consultants and notarios that employ unscrupulous tactics to take advantage of innocent or desperate victims.

One recent case was filed in New York by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo who sued two immigration services organizations “for lying about their ability to provide legitimate legal services”, falsely promising immigrants to help them obtain immigration benefits and illegally charging exorbitant fees for services.

The organizations, the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (IIF), and International Professional Association, Inc. (IPA) both headed by Edward Juarez as president, were listed as not-for-profit organizations but actually generated millions of dollars in revenue bilked from their victims.

A restraining order was imposed to stop these organizations from continuing their fraudulent operations, to prevent them from destroying their records and to freeze their assets in order to seek restitution for the victims.

It was alleged that these organizations enticed immigrants through advertisements, articles, conferences, and television and radio shows to purchase membership with their organizations with a promise of special privileges including free or low-cost legal representation.

Victims of immigration fraud should not hesitate to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office in their state. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has prepared a guide on how and where to file complaints against those who are not authorized or qualified to help with immigration matters. The guide contains information to help the victims in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories to take action against those who have harmed them.