Overview of the Anti-Fraud Campaign

ILRC Announces Major Immigration Fraud Public Awareness Campaign. The ILRC has been a leader in the educational campaign to warn immigrants about immigration fraud. Too often, immigrants fall prey to scam artists that promise them an easy path to legal status only to cheat them out of their hard-earned money and, often, put them at risk of deportation. To combat this problem, ILRC has produced and distributed thousands of graphic novels, or comic books, in English, Spanish and Chinese that warn immigrants about typical immigration fraud scams.

Service providers who engage in fraudulent practices pose huge problems and risks for immigrants. Unschooled in US law, desperate to be legal, and often afraid to approach traditional authorities, immigrants are often preyed upon by persons holding themselves out to be immigration experts. Often the victimizer is a member of the immigrant's own community. The victim is lulled into a false sense of security because the person he is confiding in speaks his language and can understand his wants and needs. Finally, with much relief, he feels his lack of English skills are not a barrier to being understood.

The following example is taken from a real, and very typical case. Only the names of the persons involved have been changed:

Nicolas Reyes, came to the United States because his parents were already here (through a brother who had married a US citizen and later became a citizen himself) and because he could not make ends meet at home in Mexico. He and his young wife had just had their first child, and things were looking desperate. Nicolas came to the US, and after a year, sent for his wife. He worked hard, starting at odd jobs doing landscaping, and finally landed a job with a trucking company. After 9 years, he had become a full time trucker, was making good money, and had chipped in to buy a house with his brother and his parents. Still, he yearned to be legal in this country.

Through a friend, he heard of a "notario" who was helping people become legal. Since the word "notario" in Spanish means attorney, Nicolas assumed the notario was an attorney. Nicolas and his wife went to meet this man, Don Jose. Don Jose promised them that all would be fine, they would soon get their green cards, and that they should not worry.

He told them they were eligible to become legal because they had been in the country for so long. However, it would be costly: Don Jose wanted $7000. It took a year, but Nicolas was able to save and borrow enough money to pay Don Jose. Finally, he thought, he and his family would be legal. He and his wife went to see Don Jose, and paid the money. They signed some papers, provided copies of their birth certificates, and waited for the interview they had been promised.

After a couple of months, Don Jose told them their interview was on a certain date and gave them the address where they were supposed to go. He told them not to worry about anything, and that they would not need him at the interview because everything had already been submitted.

It was only after he sat down for the interview that Nicolas was told he was at an asylum interview. "Have you ever been persecuted in Mexico?" the interviewer asked. Nicolas laughed nervously and said, "No, of course not." The interviewer explained what asylum meant, and asked Nicolas to tell the truth. He did. Because he did not qualify for asylum, his case was automatically referred to the immigration court.

As a direct result of Don Jose's fraudulent and deceptive actions, Nicolas, his wife, and his son are in removal proceedings. Due to the different circumstances for each of their cases, the family faces a real threat of being separated. Because Nicolas had been here more than 10 years when he was placed in removal proceedings, and his mother, who is a permanent resident, is very ill, he is eligible for cancellation of removal. His wife and son, however, were only here 9 and a half years when they were placed in removal proceedings. They are not eligible for any relief from removal. His son, now 11, came here when he was 18 months old and is now an A student in school. His wife is studying to be a nurse assistant and is the primary caretaker for Nicholas' critically ill mother. Nicolas and his family are praying that some miracle will allow them all to stay together.

Nicolas never confronted Don Jose with his lies because he was too afraid. His $7000 payment is history.

The ILRC is dedicated to educating immigrants about these pitfalls so vulnerable individuals will not become victims of scams and unethical service providers. We also provide legal practitioners with resources to aid their clients. Please see more resources listed below and in the section For Immigrants/Para Inmigrantes.