Saturday, July 7, 2012

DREAMers - Watch Out for Unscrupulous "Immigration Helpers"

DREAM Act Related Fraud Already Running Rampant

By Sara Inés Calderón

Less than two weeks after President Barack Obama announced administrative relief for certain DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, anecdotal evidence suggests that some may be trying to take advantage of these families by making big promises for huge fees.
In some Latin American countries, a “notario” is akin to an attorney — in the U.S. this is not the case.  Latino immigrants often fall victim to unscrupulousnotarios who make unfounded promises related to immigration paperwork at a huge financial (and emotional) cost to them.
It’s no different with the new DREAMer administrative relief, which allows them to live and work in the U.S. via this new legal procedure. It applies to people with no documentation between 15 and 30 years old (under 31), who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived here since, are not criminals, are in school or have a high school credential. There is also mention of being honorably discharged from the military.
Anecdotal stories are running rampant throughout the country. Photos of attorneys asking for thousands of dollars to process paperwork that does not yet exist have appeared on Facebook, some organizations are even keeping a running tally of such photos. It’s to the point that Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez even posted a notice to social networking sites telling people — specifically — to avoid scams from notarios.
“It’s really appalling to see how these people are lying,” said Adrian Reyna, Vice President of the University Leadership Initiative, an organization at the University of Texas, Austin advocating for the DREAM Act. “It does not respect their dignity as human beings to try to scam them out of three, four thousand dollars.”
Reyna said he’s been trying to work to educate the public about these scams, but was saddened to realize that, ultimately, some desperate families will likely fall victim to notario-type fraud.
“Being undocumented is desperate. It’s not something that you like, or that is easy, so you are willing to take that extra step in trying to get away from it,” and that is the point at which fraud becomes possible, Reyna explained.
So this is what is legit. San Francisco-based immigration attorney Randall Caudle said that, at this point, the only thing attorneys can really do is consult with clients and advise them to begin to collect paperwork that documents their presence in the U.S. within the required timeframe. The agency responsible for creating the procedure to administer this process, USCIS, has until August 13 to create their process, he said.
Neither AILA nor the USCIS recommends notarios; bad advice could have some end up in removal proceedings.
There were a few interesting points that Caudle highlighted with regard to this process. One, which has not been widely reported, according to a call with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas last week, the process applies to people who are under 31, which is to say, you can be over 30 to be eligible. What’s more, those with final orders of removal may still be eligible for this relief, and Caudle speculated that those whose applications are not approved may not necessarily be deported, since the government still has prosecutorial discretion to decide who to deport.
He also highlighted the fact that the military component of this relief is “mostly PR” because the most likely way for someone with no papers to get into the military is via fraudulent documents. And the new process will most likely not allow for these DREAMers to enter the military either, since they won’t have legal status. Caudle also mentioned that he doubted Mitt Romney, if elected, could realistically undo this process without suffering heavy political ramifications.
There are a few other things to keep in mind, Caudle said:
o    Gather documentation to show you were in the country before June 15, 2007, this includes school records, medical records, or financial records like utility bills. You need to show that you have been here continuously since then, up to June 15, 2012.
o    You will need a passport from your country of origin.
o    You should get your birth certificate from your country of origin.
o    Don’t commit any crimes, this will make you inadmissible for this relief; this includes a DUI, drug possession or a hit and run accident.
Here is a list of resources for those seeking more information about how to approach this process:
o    AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) is organizing a volunteer group of immigration attorneys to work with DREAMers on a pro bono basis.
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