Scammers in the state of New York, which is one of the biggest immigration hubs in the United States, are to face more severe penalties if they defraud people seeking help with legal immigration matters. The Immigration Assistance Service Enforcement Act came into effect yesterday and provides immigrants with new rights and protections if they are conned by businesses or individuals pretending to be qualified advisers on immigration and citizenship issues.
It is now a felony to defraud people looking for immigration assistance and legal advice of more than $1,000. The push to pass the law came from immigrant advocates who want to stop immigrants from becoming the targets of fraudsters, particularly in the wake of the executive action on immigration recently taken by President Obama.
Notarios, as they are referred to, take advantage of differences in cultural norms. They are not legally allowed to give advice on legal matters relating to immigration and are not licensed to represent immigration cases in court. They are also banned from reporting undocumented immigrants who complain about bad service.
While all 50 states in the US and a number of US territories provide some degree of protection against fraudsters, the law in New York is unique. New York has a permanently-established State Office for New Americans, which is “dedicated to promoting and enhancing the welfare of immigrant communities”, the New York Immigration Coalition says.