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Don’t Be Scammed

Posted on April 10, 2015 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

The premier Spanish-language newspaper “El Diario” turns to Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services C. Mario Russell for regular updates on immigration reform. Learn this week in El Diario – and below — about how to avoid immigration scams.

By C. Mario Russell

As we wait to hear what will happen to the Texas court decision that blocks President Obama’s Executive Action program on immigration, scammers and cheaters have already begun moving in. In early March, the Queens District Attorney arrested a travel agent for stealing thousands of dollars from an undocumented immigrant. The travel agent stole the victim’s cash with false promises of getting him immigration status. Immigration fraud comes in many forms.  Sometimes it is in the form of a notario or an “immigration service provider” who makes false promises of help to get a work permit or a green card. 

Other times it comes in the form of an attorney who promises to do work for you and never does it, or someone who claims to be an attorney but who is not.  Going to the wrong person for help can put your immigration case at risk and filing the wrong application can make it more difficult for you to obtain relief later on. So if you are unsure about your immigration case or you want help getting connected to the right assistance, here are some things you can do:

  1. Get a free screening from a trustworthy immigration attorney.  On Sunday, April 12, New York City legal services agencies and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs will hold a free Immigration Legal Screening event where an experienced immigration attorney can advise you about your immigration options.  Call Catholic Charities for an appointment: (212) 419-3700 Mon-Fri 9am-8pm.
  2. Don’t believe any offer to apply for Executive Action programs. These programs are not available yet. But if you think you might be eligible, you can start preparing your documents now.  A presentation on how to prepare your documents—including a free booklet guide—will be offered at the April 12 screening event. Remember, only lawyers and certain licensed representatives can give advice and assistance on immigration matters.
  3. Call the New Americans Hotline for free confidential help. If you’ve been scammed before or need more information about immigration issues or to get a referral for assistance from a local community-based organization, call the free New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

Read the full post in El Diario.  

Mario Russell is Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane NYC and teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.