As undocumented youngsters across America line up today to try to legally avoid deportation, state officials warm them to watch out for potential scams that could put their applications to remain in the United States in jeopardy.
California Attorney General released a vague warning today, saying often times immigrants fall victim to consumer scams, especially as they look to lawyers and other experts to guide them through the new federal program that will grant many of them amnesty for two years.
The program, also known as the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in June, and states that immigrants who were brought to the U.States as a child, and who were students or served in the military, can remain here for two years -- and work -- without fear of being deported. More than 1.7 million undocumented youth are expected to apply for the program.
While the Attorney General has not yet received any complaints about scams, the AG has passed along some tips on how to ensure you won't get screwed in the process:
- Is the person offering legal services a lawyer licensed by the State Bar of California? You can check out an attorney online at www.calbar.ca.gov or by calling 800-843-9053.
- If you cannot afford a private attorney, the Board of Immigration Appeals provides a list of attorneys who provide immigration services either for free or for very little cost. This list is available online at www.justice.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm.You can also contact your local legal aid office. For a referral, visit www.lsc.gov and click on the Find Legal Assistance tab.
- Immigration consultants are required to register with the California Secretary of State's Office, and to post a $50,000 bond. You can check out an Immigration Consultant online at www.sos.ca.gov/business/sf/bond_search.
- It is against the law for an immigration consultant to give legal advice. An immigration consultant can only give you non-legal help, such as translating your answers to questions on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forms.
- Get a written contract signed and dated by the immigration consultant. Make sure the contract lists the full name and contact information for the immigration consultant, the services you were promised and how much you have agreed to pay. The contract must be written in both English and your language. You have the right to cancel the contract within 72 hours of signing the contract. You must cancel the contract in writing. Give only copies of original documents to the immigration consultant; keep your originals in a safe place.
If you do run into some troubles, you can file a complaint here
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