In their quest to become lawful permanent residents and citizens, immigrants to the United States face many obstacles.
Most are aware of the challenges posed by the government’s strict requirements.
But few recognize another type of danger. Being defrauded by people they hire to help them: friends, lawyers, immigration consultants, paralegals, legal service assistants, and notarios.
No immigrant community is immune. I’ve heard similar stories from immigrants born in diverse nations such as the Philippines and Peru, Ethopia and El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco.
It works like this.
He speaks to you in your own language. He seems so nice. Maybe he comes from your town or village. Maybe he knows some of the same people you know.
And he’s happy to help your quest for permanent residence. Of course you need to pay him something, right?
He’s doing a lot to help you and your family. He seems so sincere.
Why not trust him?
The immigration system is extremely complex. It is unlikely your new friend can help you navigate the rocky road to U.S. visas, permanent residence, or citizenship.
Usually he will not know about the most recent changes in immigration law which affects your case. And even if he has heard about them, he does not know or care about how to decipher either the new rules or the new court cases.
Like a true pal will not let you drive home drunk, why would your new friend send you to an immigration interview when you do not know if your papers have been completed correctly?
There is a second, worse reason you need to be cautious following the advice of new friends.
Simply stated, you cannot assume that this nice stranger who speaks your language cares for you like a brother.
Many criminals take advantage of immigrants by appealing to their sense of community.
They act like friends. They take your money. Then they disappear.
Immigration fraud is about more than the money you lost. Your entire life may be ruined. All the planning you put into becoming a legal resident of the United States can be lost forever.
Juan wanted to get his green card to live in the U.S. with his wife, Maria, and their three young children.
To be sure they wouldn’t make a mistake, they hired Emilio. They met him through some church friends.
Emilio gave them a business card which said he was an immigration consultant and a notario.
Emilio agreed to prepare Juan’s family-based permanent residence application for a reduced fee. Emilio told Juan that he would have to travel to his home country for his immigration interview.
He told Juan this was the normal process and he had helped many clients the same way.
Juan would get a green card, Emilio assured. He said Juan would be home in a few days. When Juan returned, Emilio added, Juan would be a lawful permanent resident.
At his interview, Juan learned that he would not be given a green card In fact, he could not return to the U. S. at all for the next 10 years.
By the time his wife came to my San Diego immigration law office, she had spent thousands of dollars and lost all hope of ever living a normal life.
Unfortunately, Juan is not the only immigrant who has been victimized by a false friend. And I suspect he may not be the last.
If you are required to return to your home country for a green card interview, you’ll likely need to complete an I-601 family unity and inadmissibility waiver application. These are not simple cases.
Avoiding Immigration Fraud, Part 1, covering the False Friends Ploy, is the first part of a five-part series on the most common immigration and green card scams perpetuated on unsuspecting mixed-status immigrant families. To read the full series, click here: If You’re Looking For Immigration Help: Beware Immigration Fraud.