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Barack Obama Immigration Executive Order: USCIS, California Attorney General Warn Immigrant Applicants of Scam Artists

First Posted: Nov 26, 2014 09:04 AM EST

Following President Barack Obama's immigration reform executive action, undocumented immigrants should heed caution when applying for work permits and other documentation to stay in the U.S. as scam artists are set to take advantage of vulnerable victims, state and federal officials are warning.

While the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency is set to release details about temporary protections for the approximately 5 million eligible immigrants currently in the U.S., potential applicants are being cautioned about "anyone who offers to help" submit an application.

Joanne Ferreira, public affairs officer of ethnic media for USCIS, told Latin Post that combatting immigration services scams is a "priority" for the agency.

"We are committed to combating them and the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL)," said Ferreira. "We seek to educate applicants about immigration scams and ensure that applicants know how to find qualified legal advice and assistance in completing and submitting forms to USCIS."

In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a consumer alert cautioning "con artists emerging to prey on vulnerable consumers seeking help with immigrations services."

"Using unauthorized immigration consultants can delay your application, cost you unnecessary fees and possibly lead to removal proceedings. This consumer alert will give you tips on how to avoid and report immigration services scams," said Harris, in a statement.

Federal immigration authorities have yet to start accepting requests or applications relating to Obama's immigration executive action. Harris warned, "Be on alert if someone tells you about an immigration law that does not exist, or claims to have connections or special influence with any government office or agency, or makes reference to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) with respect to fees and forms. These statements are false."

Immigration consultants, notaries public and "notarios" are forbidden to provide legal advice, suggest answers for forms or tell applicants the forms necessary to file with the federal immigration authorities. Immigration consultants should not receive an applicant's original documents but copies are permissible. Telephone scams are another caution as they may ask for personal information, payment or falsely claim issues with the applicant's immigration record.

"If a scammer calls you, say 'No, thank you' and hang up," Harris added. "Federal immigration officials will not call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone."

As Latin Post reported, Obama announced his executive actions on immigration on Nov. 20. The executive action would allow approximately 4.9 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. pending a criminal background check and pay a fine and taxes.

Obama's executive action expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for applicants to seek a renewable three-year stay instead of two years. Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been in the country since Jan. 1, 2010, can request deferred action and employment authorization for three years as part of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.

The USCIS, and other agencies and offices, has been tasked to implement the initiatives Obama outlined during his primetime address last week. Some initiatives could take several months to start.


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