FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2017
Jesse Melgar or Sam Mahood
Secretary of State Alex Padilla Announces Effort to Protect Californians Seeking Immigration Consulting Services
LOS ANGELES – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced today a new effort to protect consumers seeking services from immigration consultants as a result of anticipated spikes in demand due to recent federal immigration actions. As part of this new effort, the Secretary of State launched new online resource portals that outline consumers' rights as well as remind immigration consultants of their responsibilities and limitations pursuant to state law. In addition, Secretary Padilla directed the Secretary of State Business Programs Division to send letters to the 1,016 active immigration consultants registered in the State of California informing them of their obligations as responsible practitioners.
For information on immigration consultants, consumers can visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/immigration-consultants/
To view the letter that will be sent to all immigration consultants, visit: https://bpd.cdn.sos.ca.gov/immigration-consultants/immigration-letter-english.pdf
“Heightened anxieties due to unpredictable federal immigration policy is causing unease among California's immigrant communities, leading many to seek help from immigration consultants," said Secretary Padilla. "We want to inform consumers of their rights, while making sure immigration consultants understand and adhere to California law. With that goal, I am joining with immigrant rights organizations and the California Department of Justice to provide clear and concise information to those who provide and to those who seek services."
“The current anti-immigrant political climate makes immigration services fraud more likely, as immigrants seek information and assistance and scam artists prey on their vulnerability,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “Unscrupulous immigration consultants prey on this vulnerable population across the state, stealing their hard-earned money and often jeopardizing their chances of obtaining viable forms of immigration relief. My team will continue to work collaboratively with the Secretary of State, advocacy organizations and law enforcement to prosecute these consultants and ensure they are held accountable.”
The Secretary of State’s office is launching a new online portal that outlines what an immigration consultant can and cannot do, and provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
The public can visit http://www.sos.ca.gov/immigration-consultants/ to learn more.
Consumers can also look up an immigration consultant's status through the Secretary of State’s online special filings tool: http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/sf/bond_search/
Through this tool, consumers can verify if a consultant has properly registered with the state, has the necessary bond coverage and is complying with the law. They can check if a consultant is active before seeking services to avoid doing business with individuals or companies operating without authorization.
A few of the limitations on immigration consultants, they:
- cannot provide any sort of legal advice whatsoever;
- cannot promise or guarantee results;
- cannot charge for referrals to lawyers or other authorized immigration services providers; and
- cannot advise clients which forms to use
Immigrant rights groups joined the Secretary in highlighting the importance of educating the public:
"It is always important to ensure vulnerable communities are not taken advantage of, especially during times of anxiety. We applaud Secretary Padilla's efforts to protect our communities from unscrupulous ‘immigration consultants’ who prey, cheat, and harm them," said Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
“Often times the Asian American community is not considered to be impacted by immigration fraud. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many AAPI communities are impacted by immigration fraud but, due to fear, are not willing to share their stories. Advancing Justice is a resource for AAPI communities to assist with complaints against notarios, inquiries with the immigration service, and subsequent support with immigration remedies," said Nasim Khansari, Citizenship Project Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
"CAIR-LA’s Immigrants’ Rights Center aims to empower non-citizens by helping them achieve independence, security, and the opportunity to fully participate in American society. We recognize the prevalence of immigration fraud, and join Secretary of State Alex Padilla in efforts to educate community members on what to look for when seeking assistance with immigration matters, as well as practitioners on their legal obligations when providing services to immigrant communities. Our team of attorneys and DOJ accredited representatives are dedicated to providing high quality legal services to individuals otherwise unable to obtain qualified screening and legal assistance with immigration application," said Farida Chechata, Immigrants' Rights Attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Los Angeles.