Attorney General Issues Urgent Fraud Alert on “ICE” Immigration Scams

Please see below for the latest updates from Attorney General Scheiderman pertaining to the “ICE” Immigration Scams.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
[email protected]
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ISSUES URGENT FRAUD ALERT ON “ICE” IMMIGRATION SCAMS

Attorney General’s Alert Follows New Reports Of Fraudsters Posing As ‘ICE’ Agents, Threatening To Detain Immigrants Unless They Pay Up

Schneiderman: ICE Agents Will Never Ask For Money

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an urgent fraud alert, warning immigrant communities of potential scams in light of recent reports that fraudsters have been posing as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents scams and demanding money in order to avoid deportation. The Attorney General’s office has received an increased number of reported scams along these lines following the ICE deportation raids that have taken place over the last few days.

“It is unconscionable for scam artists to prey on heightened fear in our immigrant communities by pretending to be ICE officers and demanding that families pay up in order to avoid deportation,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I urge communities to protect themselves by learning about these potential scams – and contacting my office if they suspect fraud. We will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal and bring to justice those who commit fraud against our immigrant communities.”

The Attorney General’s office has received a number of reports of unsolicited calls or in-person inquiries from fake immigration officials. For example, one immigrant living in Queens was approached by four men dressed as ICE agents. The purported ICE “agents” told the man that he was going to be detained unless he gave them all of his money.

To report potential fraud or other issues regarding immigration services, contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or email [email protected]. The Attorney General’s office will never ask for your immigration status or share immigration information with federal authorities if you contact the Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline.

Attorney General Schneiderman also reminded immigrant communities of the New York resources available to those seeking immigration and naturalization-related support. Managed by Catholic Charities Community Services, the New Americans hotline is a toll-free, multi-lingual hotline that provides live assistance in receiving immigration and naturalization information and referrals, regardless of citizenship or documented status. All calls to the hotline are confidential and anonymous. Call 1-800-566-7636 (toll-free) anytime between 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday.

Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers of these common forms of immigration fraud:

Being Approached by Fake ICE Agents. Official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will never ask you for money or threaten detainment or deportation if you do not pay them. ICE agents also do not have the authority to enter your household without a warrant signed by a judge.

Unsolicited Calls From Fake Officials: One of the most common immigration services scams are unsolicited calls or text messages from someone claiming to be a government official or law enforcement officer that make threats such as deportation. Often times the number on caller ID may look like a legitimate government number. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will never request payment over the phone, so immigrants should be wary of scammers that ask for any sensitive or personal information, demand payment and threaten deportation if you do not comply.

Notario Fraud: In many Latin American countries a “notario” refers to someone who has the authority to render legal services. Unscrupulous “notaries” who are not attorneys often rely on this misunderstanding to exploit immigrants. They charge immigrants excessive application fees without ever submitting applications to the immigration authorities or may induce deportation by submitting applications for relief for which the immigrant is not eligible for or did not request.

Misrepresenting Legal Credentials: Individuals may falsely claim to be attorneys or wrongly suggest that they are able to appear before the immigration agencies or court. They take advantage of immigrants who will unknowingly pay exorbitant fees for their services. By misrepresenting their qualifications, these individuals can have a detrimental impact on the immigrants with whom they work. For example, immigrants who take advice from and work with these individuals may waive their right to obtain legal residency, be unnecessarily deported, or become subject to civil and/or criminal liability for the filing of false claims.

Fraudulent Promises to Expedite Process: This type of fraud concerns individuals who contend that they know employees at immigration offices who can expedite the processing of their clients applications. Accordingly, they request high fees for this special service, but fail to provide it.

Misinformation Fraud: Under this type of fraud, a provider will typically provide inaccurate or false information to the immigrant concerning his or her eligibility for an adjustment of status under a particular law. In these cases, the immigrant is usually not aware that they have been a victim of fraud until they receive a letter of ineligibility from immigration authorities. The provider knows the immigrant is not entitled to relief, or ineligible, but will file the application with immigration authorities regardless.

Immigration Affinity Fraud: Some providers target immigrants belonging to their same ethnic or racial group. Accordingly, they seek to gain advantage over other providers by claiming to identify with the ethnic, racial, national origin or community-based affiliations of the immigrant group.

Unauthorized Practice of the Law: Individuals may not be licensed to practice law but present themselves as attorneys or immigration law experts capable of providing legal advice and services.

Attorney General Schneiderman provided these key tips to avoid getting scammed:

·         Only work with a licensed lawyer or an authorized provider.

·         Never sign blank applications or documents you do not understand.

·         Do not make payments over the phone or via email.

Last month, anticipating changes to federal immigration enforcement, Attorney General Schneiderman provided local law enforcement agencies with legal guidance to protect their immigrant communities and improve public safety by becoming “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Additional resources can be found on the Attorney General’s website, including Know Your Rights: Immigration Services Fraud and Don’t Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud brochure. All authorized attorneys will be registered with the New York State Court. To verify an attorney, see here.  

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Suffolk County Family Court Updates!

There are updates to Family Court procedures in Suffolk County, effective 01/31/2017:

1) Fingerprinting of household members is no longer a prerequisite to getting a first hearing date in Suffolk County Family Court! All cases will get calendared within 90 days of filing. Attorneys should still complete the OCFS household information, so that the court can run the necessary background checks. However, fingerprinting of household members will be at the discretion of the family court judge, on a case-by-case basis.

2) Again, Suffolk County Family Court “strongly recommends that attorneys file the OCFS with the guardianship petition. Failure to include a completed OCFS upon initial filing can cause delays and adjournments to allow for the OCFS results to come back. There is a risk that without the OCFS results, your case will be dismissed.

3) In considering whether to request fingerprinting, each judge will make determinations on a case-by-case basis, at their discretion, by considering the “totality of the circumstances.” Moreover, judges may also request home visits, which are now conducted through the probation department, but this is not a default requirement.

If you have questions, please contact your Safe Passage Project mentor attorney!

Safe Passage Wins 5 Year Legal Battle on Behalf of Teenage Boy

Daniel Pulla Pilco Photo 4Earlier this month, Safe Passage won Legal Permanent Residence for a young client after over 5 years of hard work in three different New York Courts. Safe Passage met Danilo in 2012, when he was just 14 years old.  Danilo’s family could not support him adequately and protect his best interest in his home country. He made the perilous journey on foot to the United States in search of safety, support, educational opportunity, and his mother.

Safe Passage went to Family Court, Immigration Court, and appeared before USCIS on behalf of Danilo in helping advocate for Danilo and his stable future in the United States. Thanks to the support of Safe Passage, Danilo has also successfully enrolled in school and is loving being a new New Yorker.

At his case closing meeting earlier this week at New York Law School, Danilo thanked his Legal Team of Jordan Harlow, Gui Stampur, Rex Chen, Stephanie Gibbs, Nillie Pajoohi, Carlos Valenzuela, Lenni Benson, Desiree Hernandez and Claire Thomas.

Thank you UNICEF

image2Safe Passage stands with refugee children and will continue to advocate for all of our Safe Passage clients. The Safe Passage team is grateful to UNICEF for sharing these wonderful peace bracelets. Our team will wear them with pride.

Immigration Advocates Network Podcast on UAC

This interview with Claire R. Thomas with the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) introduces two common forms of relief for Unaccompanied Children: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Asylum. The interview compares these two options and offers guidance on advising UAC clients.

To listen to the podcast, please click HERE.

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Safe Passage Project is proud to work with and be supported by The New York City Council

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We are sharing a letter from NY City Council below. We are pleased and proud to live and work in a city that continues to support immigrants.

To New York City’s Immigrant Communities:

During these uncertain times we must remind ourselves of who we are as a city and hold steadfast to the values that we cherish and hold dear. The values of hard work, respect and coming together during times of adversity define us as New Yorkers. That will not change, no matter who is President.

New York City has always been deeply committed to protecting the rights of our immigrant communities regardless of their status. Our commitment to that will never waiver.

To address harsh immigration enforcement policies and Congress’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform, we enacted legislation that significantly limits the NYPD and Department of Correction’s cooperation with immigration authorities. As a result, our immigrant communities are shielded from harsh immigration policies that tear families apart. This will not change.

To ensure that New York City immigrants have a meaningful opportunity to seek immigration relief, the City Council funds a range of free immigration legal services programs. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project provides legal counsel to immigrants in detention who face deportation. The Unaccompanied Minors and Families initiative ensures that every unaccompanied minor living in New York City has access to legal advice and representation during removal proceedings. Under this program, countless mothers who fled Central America with their children also receive legal representation. The City Council also brings community partners and free legal services into neighborhoods across the five boroughs through our Key to the City events and CUNY Citizenship Now initiatives. This will not change.

The health and well-being of our immigrant community has also been of great importance to the City Council. As a result, we launched our Immigrant Health Initiative, which makes quality healthcare accessible to immigrants. The City has also implemented a comprehensive language access policy to reduce barriers to accessing vital city services. New York City has also launched multiple initiatives to enhance civic participation, including the IDNYC program and participatory budgeting, which gives communities the opportunity to vote on funding initiatives that benefit their communities. This will not change.

New York City’s commitment to protecting and educating immigrant New Yorkers with information is stronger than ever. We urge all immigrant New Yorkers who are concerned about the recent election to contact one of the trusted legal service organizations that has partnered with the City to provide free immigration screenings and services, or one of the many community organizations in your neighborhood that provides information about immigration and city services and protections. Referrals to trusted organizations are also available by calling 311.

As always, the City of New York is prepared to defend and protect our immigrant communities. We will never turn our back on you. This will not change.

Safe Passage Project hosted by Wilson Elser for NJ Training

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Safe Passage Project attorneys Stephanie Gibbs and Rex Chen were honored to give a legal training about protecting immigrant children on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at the Chubb offices in Whitehouse Station, NJ. Joe Francoeur, a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, helped organize handouts and materials along with giving moving introductory comments. They gave a compelling description of the causes for the Central American refugee crisis along with the crisis in immigration court. They then focused on two major ways to protect children — Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Asylum.

The 16 attorneys who attended asked very thoughtful questions and were surprised by how difficult it can be to obtain legal protections.  Stephanie and Rex enjoyed the training facilities, the food provided, and how interested the audience was.

 Special thanks to Joe Francouer for his help with preparing the presentation and also to all the audience members who then signed up to volunteer in immigration court later that week!
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Safe Passage Success Story

Safe Passage succeeded in helping two brave children obtain Legal Permanent Resident status in the United States. Safe Passage helped their aunt become their legal guardian and J and F file for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. One week ago, the kids received their Green Cards.

Safe Passage has helped ensure J and F will now have a safe and stable future. J told Safe Passage that he, “either wants to become a lawyer or a professional soccer player, and his sister wants to become a doctor.” Both kids said that they promise to continue to make Safe Passage proud and offered their legal team an open invitation to attend their respective college graduations, which will take place in 2019 and 2020.

J an F’s legal team consisted of Safe Passage Pro Bono attorney, Kevin Page, Director of Legal Sevices, Gui Stampur, IJC Fellow, Carlos Valenzuela, and Equal Justive Works Fellow, Lauren Blodgett.

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Lenni Benson wins RCS Jolli Humanitarian Award in Recognition of Work with Safe Passage

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This year Professor Lenni Benson has been chosen for the Jolli Humanitarian Award at Riverdale Country School. Each year students at Riverdale Country School write essays to nominate someone the students believe deserve to be recognized for outstanding humanitarian work. Past winners have included: Frank Mugisha an activist whose work focuses on Uganda, Pernille Ironside, a child advocate for UNICEF who has worked in war zones around the world; Rachel Lloyd, an anti-human trafficking advocate; Geoffrey Canada, the former leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone; and Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of a women’s peace movement.

Professor Benson was nominated, and won, for her work recruiting, training and mentor attorneys to represent unaccompanied children in removal proceedings. She began the Safe Passage Project as a pro bono project which is currently housed at New York Law School. She was nominated by current Riverdale student, Erin Cooper. Lenni’s passion for helping people is not only obvious but it is also contagious. Lenni’s energy is contagious. From the minute she walks into the room, things move forward. You can tell in Erin’s moving nomination essay that she was also affected by Professor Benson’s ability to motivate people.  Today the Safe Passage Project has grown to have full time staff attorneys, legal fellows, social workers and a large group of law students working together to assist the over 400 actively involved pro bono attorneys.

Professor Benson is pleased that at the Jolli Award assembly on November 1, she will be joined by Gui Stampur, the Safe Passage Director of Legal Services, who is also an alumnus of Riverdale Class of 2000,  several other Riverdale graduates, who have interned at Safe Passage, and a former Safe Passage client.

In addition, on October 30, Riverdale’s Middle School will also host its 4th field day at RCS, where the clients of Safe Passage Project can enjoy a day playing soccer on the Riverdale Campus alongside RCS students.

***Website Post Written by Holly Hickman, NYLS Class of 2019 and Former Safe Passage Summer Intern

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Attorney of the Week

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The Safe Passage Project is proud to announce that Harry Shulman is this week’s Attorney of the Week. Harry has been volunteering with Safe Passage for over six years and has assisted us in many different ways. From representing clients in asylum and SIJS cases to conducting client intakes at immigration court, Harry has contributed greatly to Safe Passage’s mission of providing quality representation to children facing deportation.

Harry is an active member of the immigration law network here in New York City, demonstrated in particular through his involvement with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). In addition to volunteering with AILA and attending many of their events, Harry was the co-chair of AILA’s pro bono committee in 2013 with Kristy Dalling. Harry has had a fascinating career path with many interesting experiences that have led him to continue pursuing volunteer work in this field. After graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans, Harry worked in New York City trading commodities for a decade before attending law school. He received his J.D. from Cardozo Law School in 1993.

Harry’s interest in immigration law was sparked during law school when he took a course on immigration taught by the distinguished immigration lawyer Leon Wildes, who represented John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their deportation proceedings in the 1970s. During law school, Harry participated in an immigration clinic at Catholic Charities, where he learned firsthand about asylum law and was and continues to be inspired by immigration attorney Mark Von Sternberg and all the other dedicated and self-sacrificing attorneys and staff who work in this area of the law.

Over the past 15 years, Harry has dedicated much of his time to advocating for the rights of immigrants. Harry has represented immigrants on a pro bono basis in partnership with AILA, KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), and Safe Passage. From representing a Chinese man who was persecuted due to his involvement in the Falun Gong community, to assisting with intakes of detained immigrants at the Varick Street Detention Center, Harry has a wide range of experience in this field. For Harry, one of the biggest rewards he receives from this work is the connection he makes with the clients. In particular, Harry remembers one of his clients calling him non-stop on September 11th to make sure that he was safe after the World Trade Center was attacked. This touching, close human connection is what inspires Harry continue to volunteer his time and assist these clients.

Harry also really enjoys staying in touch with clients and seeing what their lives are like after their cases have been resolved. For Harry, it is such a great feeling to see his clients living successful, happy, lives. Even for clients who continue to have difficult lives, Harry appreciates that he could contribute to taking at least one burden – having to worry about their immigration status – off of their shoulders.

In reflecting on his relationship with Safe Passage, Harry stated “I really appreciate the support that Safe Passage has given me throughout the entire process. The people at Safe Passage not only helped me with a lot of the heavy lifting, but also just genuinely cared about the case and the client we were helping.” Harry has found the cases he worked on with Safe Passage to be very interesting and complicated, often with lots of surprises and lessons along the way. Despite the complexities of this field of law and the cases, Harry says that it is an extremely cooperative environment and that everyone he has met through this work has been so helpful and genuine. He stated, “I feel so lucky to be in a position to help the Safe Passage Project.” We at the Safe Passage Project feel lucky to have Harry on our team! Thank you, Harry, for all of the time, effort, and energy that you contribute to enriching the lives of the Safe Passage clients and team!

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