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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Safe Passage Project with the NYC Bar Association: Central American Refugee Crisis

On January 26, 2017, Safe Passage Project took place in a pro bono fair following a program at the NYC Bar Association entitled “The Central American Refugee Crisis: Human Rights Challenges and needs in the United States and South of the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Director of Training, Claire R. Thomas, spoke on the panel, along with Luis Canales, a Honduran refugee who is now a law student at Villanova School of Law.

To view a recording of the event, please click HERE.

At one point in the evening, Thomas quoted Warsan Shire’s powerful and timely poem titled “Home.” Read that poem in its entirety HERE.

Panelists, Including Claire Thomas

Panelists, Including Claire R. Thomas

Safe Passage Project Hosts ICARE Training on November 18

On November 18, 2016, Safe Passage Project hosted attorneys from the ICARE (Immigrant Children Advocates Relief Effort) coalition of non-profit organizations in New York City for a training on Immigration Court Practice. Safe Passage Project Attorneys Rex Chen, Alex Rizio, Stephanie Gibbs, Desiree Hernandez, and Claire R. Thomas participated.

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SPP Staff Attorney Rex Chen

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SPP Staff Attorney Stephanie Gibbs

Lenni and Claire Participate in UNICEF #ChildrenFirst Vigil

On Sunday, September 18th, Lenni and Claire participated in UNICEF’s #ChildrenFirst vigil outside the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Manhattan. During this candlelight vigil, advocates stood in solidarity with the 50 million children who are on the move worldwide and called on world leaders to put children first on the agenda during the UN’s summit on refugees and migrants.

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Left to Right, Lisa Szarzkowski, Vice President of Humanitarian Emergencies and Executive Communications at U.S. Fund for UNICEF, alongside Professor Lenni Benson and Claire Thomas. Director of Training at Safe Passage Project

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IDNYC Celebrates a Year and a Half

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IDNYC, a free photo ID card for ALL New Yorkers, is celebrating a year and a half of identification accessibility in New York City!

Any person who is a resident of the five buroughs may apply for and obtain an IDNYC for free, regardless of whether or not they may be homeless, youth, elderly, undocumented, formerly encarcerated, a victim of domestic violence, or transgender.

The card can be used to access all City buildings that serve the public as well as for interacting with the NYPD (a relief for people that were previously unable to obtain ID from the DMV and who relied on passports, cedulas, or simply went without identification.)

Additional IDNYC benefits include access to public libraries, free memberships to many cultural institutions, and discounts at grocery stores, movie theaters, animal shelters, and local YMCAs.

Card holders may add an emergency contact to the back of the card as well as note their primary language.

Click here to make an appointment at any site throughout the five boroughs!

Prosecutorial Discretion: An In-Depth Training Video

Safe Passage Project held an “In-Depth Training On Prosecutorial Discretion” on August 23, 2016. Rex Chen, Safe Passage Project Mentor Attorney and veteran “prosecutorial discretion” (“PD”) presenter, helped train over 40 people about seeking PD in the context of New York City Immigration Court.  Rex co-presented with Jodi Ziesemer, Supervising Attorney at Catholic Charities (Archdiocese of NY).

Rex and Jodi offered an overview of PD, practical tips, and addressed a large number of questions from the audience along with hypothetical cases.  They covered the recent change to the fingerprinting process for someone seeking PD and has never been fingerprinted before, meaning an immigrant who is brand new to the process.  Rex and Jodi also encouraged the audience to build an immigrant’s life details into a coherent story, drawing on common themes that appear in many stories and biographies that we hear and read outside the world of immigration law.

The audience of lawyers, students, and advocates were extremely involved with the presentation and raised a large number of questions, which Rex and Jodi worked to incorporate into the presentation.

Afterward, audience members felt the training was very clear and provided many practical tips.

Rex and Jodi thanked: NY City Council, NY Community Trust, and Robin Hood for funding the ICARE project. The ICARE Coalition, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, and Leslie Wagner. Dr. Alan Shapiro, Dr. Cristina Muniz, and the Terra Firma staff. Michelle Mendez. Catholic Charities staff, including Raluca Oncioiu and Jacqueline Stabnow. Safe Passage Project staff including Lenni Benson, Claire Thomas, Stephanie Gibbs, Marilyn Alvarado, and Xia Gordon. Rebecca Press, Liane Aronchick, and Jacqueline Stabnow (a second time).

Please contact Rex Chen ([email protected]) if you would like to join an email discussion about prosecutorial discretion!

You can view the full presentation here.

For those watching the video, please download the handout and the appendix of materials that we gave the audience at the following two links:

Gui Stampur, Director of Legal Services, featured in the Atlantic

In an article published on August 20, 2016, “Across the Border and Into School,” the Atlantic recent coverage continues a recent trend of media attention on the lives of unaccompanied minors. In particular, the Atlantic focuses on unaccompanied Central American minors present in the United States and their challenges in getting in enrolled consistently in school.

 

Gui Stampur, Director of Legal Services at Safe Passage Project, was interviewed as part of the article. “These are challenges that, unchecked, obviously impact how kids do in school—and whether they go to school at all. “I think our goal at Safe Passage is to enable kids to be kids and to focus on school, to focus on their education,” Stampur said. While most schools in the city, he said, have been good about accepting students, occasionally he has to lean on schools upstate and on Long Island to enroll the undocumented children who live there.”

 

Read the article in its entirety on The Atlantic, or here.

New PD Fingerprinting Procedure at NY Immigration Court

SPP LogoOn Friday, August 12, 2016, ICE Deputy Chief Counsel Susan Beschta was present at the juvenile docket before Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Mary Cheng, and clarified the new fingerprinting procedure for respondents requesting prosecutorial discretion (“PD”).

In short, the Office of Chief Counsel will be liasing regularly with USCIS to submit bulk requests for fingerprinting appointments, for those respondents requesting PD that are 14 or older and have not be printed by USCIS for other relief (e.g. following the submission of an asylum application).

Safe Passage Project has summarized the new policy in the following memo: Safe Passage Project_Memo re New PD Policy 7.27.2016.

If you have any questions, or need help identifying the ICE Assistant Chief Counsel counterpart, please contact your Safe Passage Project mentor attorney. Special thanks to our Staff Attorney Stephanie Gibbs for her work on this update.

Lenni on NPR’s All Things Considered

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Safe Passage Project’s Lenni Benson appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Professor Benson spoke with NPR’s Richard Gonzalez back in May 2016 about the Central American crisis and the EB4 backlog; the news organization aired the segment, and published a lengthy accompanying article, yesterday.

Entitled “Halt On Juvenile Immigrant Visa Leaves Thousands In Limbo,” NPR’s segment is one of the few examples of national press coverage on this critical issue. Seeking protection through Special Immigrant Juvenile status is a complex process thatunaccompanied children have to navigate, with or without counsel. The visa backlog has only made the process even more unpredictable, for children and advocates alike.

Since the announcement of the EB4 backlog in April 2016, Professor Benson has been a forceful advocate, tirelessly pushing on the local level for a sensible approach to adjudicating these young people’s claims, and on the national level for interim relief, protections, and deferred action.

LenniBenson“They don’t come to the border and say, ‘I want to apply for an I-360 based on the Fourth Preference Employment-based Special Immigrant Juvenile 101A-27J,’ ” Benson says. “They say, ‘I can’t go home!’ “

Ever articulate and thoughtful, Professor Benson seized the opportunity to shine light on the reality that so many refugee children face. Safe Passage Project is proud.

 

Safe Passage Project responds to the U.S. v. Texas opinion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Professor Lenni Benson

[email protected]

(212) 431-2336 (Office)

(917) 596-3523 (Cell)

New York (Thursday, June 23, 2016)

(New York, NY) This morning, in a 4-4 split decision on U.S. v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court left in place the injunction blocking the deferred actions programs known as “DAPA” and “expanded DACA,” announced by President Obama in November of 2014.

These programs were announced as part of a complex set of policy initiatives that would provide work authorization and respite from deportation. Even if operational, these programs still fall far short of legal status in the United States, and fail to provide a path to legal permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.

Today’s one-sentence per curiam opinion, in real terms, means that millions of families across the United States will have to wait for the next action by the U.S. Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas. The case may now continue to trial, which itself could take months to conclude.

Following the decision’s release, President Obama commented on the impact. “Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision… It means that the expanded set of Deferred Action policies, the ones that I announced two years ago, can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the court to break the tie.” President Obama reiterated that this would not affect standing policies including the 2012 DACA program or the enforcement priorities in the context of removal.

We, at Safe Passage Project, continue to advocate and assist unaccompanied minors who are facing deportation. This decision has no effect on the ability of people to seek protection and asylum in the United States. Today’s decision, in large part, is due to lack of congressional leadership in this area. Now more than ever, we need thoughtful and well-designed immigration reform.

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Safe Passage Project, a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit housed at New York Law School, was created to address the unmet legal needs of indigent immigrant youth living in New York by providing them with basic legal advice and immigration assistance. Safe Passage Project works with volunteer attorneys to provide free representation to children in immigration court. Safe Passage Project provides training, resources, and mentoring to volunteer attorneys on immigration law and procedure. To learn more, visit www.safepassageproject.org.

Safe Passage Project_Press Release 6.23.2016

 

 

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