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NY Officials Enter Fight to Curb Immigration Services Fraud

PHOTO: The White House’s immigration reform actions have been stalled by a challenge in federal court, but city and state officials in New York still are preparing for them to take effect. Photo credit: SEIU/CC.
PHOTO: The White House’s immigration reform actions have been stalled by a challenge in federal court, but city and state officials in New York still are preparing for them to take effect. Photo credit: SEIU/CC.
April 3, 2015

NEW YORK - The White House's immigration-reform actions have been stalled by a challenge in federal court, but city and state officials in New York still are preparing for them to take effect.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a task force to combat immigration-services fraud, saying the reforms could create new opportunities for criminals who prey on immigrants.

Lucia Gomez, executive director of the immigrant-rights group La Fuente, said she's already seen cases where people posing as attorneys have charged immigrants for services they don't need.

"This is going to be an uphill battle to make sure to get individuals to not go to these service providers," she said. "But the best way to do that is to get up front and center and make sure that they have all the information they need to make an educated decision."

The task force is conducting a public awareness campaign aimed at rooting out scam artists before any reforms are implemented. It's also asking victims of fraud to come forward without worrying about deportation.

The task force includes members of the state Assembly, the Department of Consumer Affairs and advocacy groups. With immigration-services fraud becoming more sophisticated, Gomez said, the teamwork is important.

"Having this level of coordination - I think, that goes a long way to deter this kind of activity from occurring," she said, "and at least being able to go after these folks in a more systemic and strategic way."

President Obama last fall rolled out a series of executive actions designed to help undocumented immigrant children and their parents gain legal status in the United States. A coalition of states recently won a court order temporarily blocking the actions.

Derek Hawkins, Public News Service - NY