California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and pro-immigrant activists are warning immigrants to be aware of immigration scams following the recent detentions of undocumented migrants throughout Southern California.
Most of the problems stem from immigration consultants who may advertise immigration services they are not authorized to perform.
“This past month has created an immense amount of unease among California immigrant populations,” Padilla said during a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 15, in downtown Los Angeles.
“This uncertainty is causing many immigrants to seek help and many will seek help from immigration consultants,” he said.
However, Padilla said, going to the wrong immigration consultants or one that promises to do things he or she is not allowed to do can do more harm than good.
According to Padilla, immigration consultants cannot promise or guarantee results; they cannot charge for referrals to lawyers; they can’t advise clients which forms to use for their particular case; while they can assist in filling out the forms, but they can’t provide guidance on how to fill them out.
Also, according to the Secretary of State, a person in the business must obtain a $100,000 bond from a corporate surety (admitted to do business in California) prior to engaging or acting in the capacity of an immigration consultant, and file a copy of the bond with the Secretary of State’s office, along with the Immigration Consultant Disclosure form.
In addition, a person engaging in the business or acting in the capacity of an immigration consultant must pass a background check conducted by the Secretary of State’s office.
Padilla also said his office has sent letters to all 1,016 registered immigration consultants in California reminding them of their responsibilities and limitations pursuant to state law.
The Secretary said consumers can check the website http://www.sos.ca.gov/business-programs/immigration-consultants/ to look up immigration consultants, and make sure they are properly registered.
“They can check to avoid doing business with individuals who are operating without such requirements,” Padilla said.
He warned that “those who may abuse their responsibilities and the trust of their clients and violate the law, we will do our part to forward complaints to the state Attorney General’s office for investigation and prosecution when it fits.”
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said her organization has heard from “numerous victims of immigration consultants.”
“Many of them were issued deportation orders in absentia, without them knowing,” she said. “They paid money expecting a result. Instead, many of them are being picked up by immigration enforcement.”
She said that “getting the [wrong consultant] can really hurt you. It can harm your possibilities of being in this country.”