How to avoid immigration fraud

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Understanding U.S. immigration laws can be tricky. And with the possibility of immigration reform and a path to citizenship on the horizon, many fear that there is more opportunity for immigration fraud. Saul Gonzalez reports on one case of fraud here.

We spoke to Daniel Sharp, legal director at CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) Los Angeles, to iron out some questions about fraud, immigration processes and what to do if you’re stuck in a rut.

Photo: Saul Gonzalez

Know who is handling your case

Always talk to an  experienced, accredited immigration attorney. Never go to a notary or “immigration consultant” to ask for advice. The attorney who is helping you on your case should be able to  Notaries are not allowed to help with any basic immigration processes. If applying for anything related to immigration, speak to a legal center with accredited lawyers and representatives from the Board of Immigration Appeals. If you don’t know where to start, contact an organization like the American Immigration Lawyers Association to be referred to the right legal center or attorney.

A non-profit can help, sometimes

Ask the organization if they have a legal representative or attorney on the premises. There are mass naturalized citizenship and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) application events hosted by non-profits that can help you, but only if an immigration attorney is present to oversee the event. If they do not have an accredited attorney, they cannot help anyone submit an application or give legal consultation. If you have doubts, ask who the legal representative is and if they’re accredited to practice immigration law.

Your case is your own, not the same as your friend’s

Let’s say your neighbor received their green card in the mail today and their case sounds very similar to yours. You’re determined to apply for the same process. First thing to do is speak to an experienced, accredited immigration attorney. The lawyer will talk to you about date of entry, family status and criminal history. There might be overlapping similarities with someone you know, but each case taken by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is unique.

IF you suspect fraud, what to do

If you run into trouble — or suspect it — speak to an experienced, accredited immigration attorney. You will need a lawyer’s opinion if you’ve been a victim of fraud and should follow legal advice. You should also contact the state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Also, if you know a lawyer isn’t being ethical you can file a complaint with the state bar. And to file a suit against the notary or attorney, make sure you have all the right information to present a case; all the filed documents, receipts, email exchanges and written agreements.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Cover your bases. You will be spending a lot of money on an application process and it’s best to see it as a worthy investment than a rapid solution. Don’t poke around, going from attorney to attorney, to hear what you want to hear. There may not be a solution to your immigration status at the moment. The bottom line is: find an experienced, accredited attorney to help you.

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