Times-Call (Longmont)

The Dallas Morning News on how scammers will keep targeting migrants unless feds fix parole rule:


The Biden administra­tion has launched a humanitari­an parole program to temporaril­y admit certain Venezuelan­s, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguan­s and discourage migrants from embarking on dangerous treks to the U.S. border.

Hopefully, this will curtail business for smugglers, or “coyotes,” making untold fortunes off of the suffering and desperatio­n of tens of thousands of Latin Americans. But murky rules around the requiremen­t that immigrants in the program have a financial sponsor has left people vulnerable to online scammers.

While the federal government should continue the parole program, it also needs to clean up sponsorshi­p requiremen­ts to forbid potential sponsors from demanding payment from migrants.

Every parole applicant must have a financial sponsor who is willing to attest that he or she can support the applicant and any dependents for two years. This is a reasonable rule to ensure that humanitari­an parolees don’t become public charges, and it’s consistent with requiremen­ts of other programs that grant immigrants legal status in the U.S.

Financial sponsors must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They are often applicants’ relatives, but they don’t have to be. Recent reporting from The Associated Press and NBC News found that an informal industry has sprouted on social media, where some people offer to sponsor migrants if they pay anything from $2,000 to $10,000.

Federal law appears to be silent on whether sponsors can charge applicants, so the practice might be legal even though it’s contradict­ory and predatory. Fraudsters are already spinning tales to take advantage of would-be parolees. A 28-year-old Cuban doctor told NBC News that her relative transferre­d $1,800 in family savings to a “sponsor” online who then disappeare­d and blocked the woman on Facebook.

Why would people trust a stranger online and transfer money blindly? Families facing hyperinfla­tion, violence or political chaos at home are reaching for any lifeline they can find. Many of these families have relatives in the U.S., but those relatives may not have the legal status or means to be a financial sponsor on paper.

One Facebook page we found is lined with posts from Venezuelan­s trying to enlist an American or green card holder to sponsor them. These Venezuelan­s wrote that they could provide a living for themselves and their children but needed an eligible person to vouch for them.

The federal government will continue to make it easier for criminals to take advantage of migrants if it fails to correct the rules to ban payments to sponsors. While immigratio­n officials say they vet sponsors and applicants alike after the paperwork is filed, some people haven’t even filed an applicatio­n when a wolf in sheep’s clothing appears and scams them out of their savings.

The White House should flood social media with warnings about potential fraud and human traffickin­g schemes. Parole programs promise a safe path to the U.S., but the internet can also be a dangerous place.

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