Con­men prey­ing on im­mi­grant fears in US

New Straits Times - - World -

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.

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