Conmen preying on immigrant fears in US
LOS ANGELES: President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration has sent shockwaves through the Latino population across the United States and brought out scam artists who are preying on the vulnerable community.
From unscrupulous attorneys charging thousands of dollars for residency or work visas that never materialise to cheats bilking victims for documents freely available online and people passing themselves off as federal immigration agents, fraudsters are feasting on immigrant fears.
“When you have people worried and scared, you sadly have those that take advantage,” says Enrique Morones, founder and director of the San Diego-based immigrant rights group Border Angels.
Morones said he had seen a huge surge in the number of people falling victim to scams since Trump signed an executive order in January targeting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
The executive order gives federal agents wider latitude to enforce immigration laws, enabling them to deport broad categories of undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of any serious crime.
Human rights advocates say that while they support criminals being deported, the order has put almost undocumented immigrants — the majority of them Mexican — at risk.
They point to a number of arrests in recent weeks as examples, including that of a father of four who was detained in Los Angeles after dropping one of his US-born children at school and an Arizona woman who had lived in the United States for more than two decades before she was deported last month.
Many scam artists showed up at gatherings of immigrant communities during which they distribute flyers, offered their services or gather names and phone numbers, Morones said.
Some people also posed as federal immigration agents to rip people off, the authorities said.
The authorities in Chicago, New York and other cities have issued warnings against those seeking to profit unduly from the immigrant population and have announced several arrests and convictions.
“Taking advantage of the most vulnerable is reprehensible,” Attorney-General Xavier Becerra said last month after a couple was convicted — and the man sentenced to five years in prison — for defrauding immigrants.
“Today’s sentencing puts on notice others who may want to carry out these crimes, and lets hardworking immigrant families know that our office has got their backs.”
A volunteer helping a Mexican immigrant (right) to complete her United States citizenship application in New York on Saturday.