Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Post: Dishonest Attorneys Swindling Money from Vulnerable Immigrant Communites

Our guest post today comes from guest author Marcela DeVivo.  Marcela is a freelance writer focusing on technology and politics.  Writing for Oltarsh.com, she expounds upon topics such as immigration, environmentalism, as well as SEO and Social Media.  Please engage our guest in the comments below.

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Charging those in need of guidance a fee for consultations regarding matters that technically do not exist can be termed as nothing but a con. President Obama’s announcement of his initiative to grant deferred action to certain undocumented peoples who were brought into the country as minors not only created much furor on both fronts of the argument, but it also created an opportunity for fraudulence amongst a handful of questionable attorneys and scammers.

After receiving an outpouring number of calls from attorneys who claimed that they would be able to help immigrants file for deferred action, five college students in Tulsa, members of DREAM Act Oklahoma, decided to call a list of attorneys who specialized in immigration law in the area. What they encountered in a number of calls was astounding.

In one call to an attorney’s office who advertised largely in immigrant communities, claiming to deal only with the DREAM Act and immigration, a quote was given for fees: $500 for consultation and $1,500 to submit an application.

The DREAM Act is not in existence yet and the application for the deferred action directive will not be available until August.

What then, is the attorney giving a quote for? The same day, the students discovered two disbarred attorneys, one “notario” (a person offering unauthorized immigration consultations and services) and a handful of attorneys who were oblivious to the President’s new initiative.

While the students did encounter attorneys who are practicing legitimately and offering accurate and helpful information, the number of sources of dishonest and inaccurate information, providing bogus services is baffling and quite alarming. These questionable attorneys and “notarios” are readily available to immigrant communities and are taking advantage of those who are most vulnerable for monetary gains. They offer advice that is not incorrect, and in many cases charge fees that are not only outrageously high but will achieve nothing.

Various groups that cater to serving the immigrant communities, i.e. National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the national DREAM Act organization, Catholic Charities, and the YWCA Multicultural Center, are encouraging those seeking advice to undergo thorough research when selecting a primary source of guidance. Checking the attorney’s status, getting references from outside sources, and comparing the fees amongst various attorneys are necessary steps to finding a valid and legitimate professional.

In regard to the reasoning behind embarking on this amateur investigation, one of the students who made several calls explained: “this was something we had to do. The public depends on the information being put out there, and Spanish-language resources are limited. We take this as our responsibility for the public – to put knowledge out there to help.”
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