State Assembly approves bill to punish immigration charlatans

Each year, in pursuit of the “American dream” and legal residency status, thousands of immigrants in New York turn to agents who promise to deliver the keys to heaven. However, many of them wind up defrauded, losing the opportunity to live legally in this country.

Given this situation, a group of legislators from the New York State Assembly introduced legislation to stop corrupt and unscrupulous individuals from destroying the dreams and aspirations of many immigrants.

The legislation was introduced by Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin, a Democrat from Queens, and cosponsored by Assemblymen José Peralta, Tom Alfano and John J. McEneny.

The legislation would regulate immigration assistance services—individuals or organizations that provide assistance in exchange for money—to try and stop defrauders who prey on immigrants. The legislation creates civil and criminal penalties for anyone who misleadingly poses as a lawyer or an immigration specialist. It also requires immigration assistance services to present clients with a written contract, clearly stating the services provided and the fee charged.

The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the state assembly, primarily protects immigrants who are trying to gain citizenship. “This legislation creates a guide for immigration assistance services,” said Alfano. He added, “We should stop the illegitimate agencies and offices that swindle thousands of immigrants, robbing them of thousands of dollars.”

Many of the defrauders swindle immigrants by saying they can obtain citizenship, when often the victim does not satisfy the requirements for citizenship. Many of these immigrants work two or three jobs for years to save the money they are told they need for citizenship—but in the end they are cheated.

There are many cases in which immigrants have paid thousands of dollars to charlatans who promise and/or give them falsified documents, which do not provide them with any chance of becoming a U.S. citizen. Many of the victims do not get their money back. And many of the defrauders continue to cheat other victims without being stopped from carrying out these fraudulent practices. This new legislation hopes to end these unscrupulous practices.

“Many immigrants come to the United Status with little or no money, with the hope and desire of improving their lives. It is unfair that these people lose the little money that they have saved, giving it to people who give them falsified documents. This law should help protect these victims,” said Alfano.

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