Of all scammers out there, immigrants should be especially wary of lawyers who step over to the dark side, says Irina Matiychenko, Director of New York Legal Assistance Group's Immigration Protection Unit.
Authorized immigration lawyers who file fraudulent paperwork on behalf of their clients can make matters much worse than scammers who charge for advice and services that they are not authorized to provide, according to Matiychenko.
These lawyers file applications knowing that their clients arrived into the U.S. illegally, which makes them ineligible for any relief, automatically flagging them for removal.
In cases where immigrants have entered legally on visa, the lawyers committing immigration fraud may attempt to speed up the process by fabricating employers to sponsor these immigrants. If the fraud is discovered, the immigrants' work authorization is revoked and they are also flagged for removal, even if they might not have been aware of their lawyer falsifying the required employer information.
In a less tragic scenario, the fraudulent immigration assistance service providers (ISPs) convince immigrants that they have a contact with immigration authorities and can expedite their legalization process for a specific fee. ISPs are not actually authorized to provide legal advice. New York City Department of Consumer Affairs warns immigrants from working with ISPs who can only be contacted by phone or email, since they can easily disappear with the money.
"Maybe when people just get money and disappear, it's even better for the client," says Matiychenko. As she puts it, to immigrants falling victim to an immigration fraud being out a few thousand dollars might be preferable to deportation.
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