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President Obama’s June announcement (that DREAM Act-eligible youth would be spared from deportation and granted work permits) was widely applauded as a move that would finally grant relief to young immigrants and allow them to move toward legal status. But a shady, cynical cadre of fraudulent lawyers and notarios has already sprung up, prepared to take advantage of DREAMers confused about the process and desperate to apply. These scammers are charging thousands of dollars in fees and disappearing with their clients’ money, having provided no legal help or aid.
Now, in New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has announced a dedicated plan to thwart opportunities for fraud and prevent local notarios from preying on young victims. From the New York Times today:
Mr. Cuomo’s plan calls for a multilingual news media outreach campaign, community programs and the mobilization of lawyers across New York State to help immigrants navigate the Obama administration’s policy, which was announced last month…
Under Mr. Cuomo’s plan, which will be announced on Thursday, New York will pay for a team of immigration lawyers to work with organizations throughout the state to help illegal immigrants who qualify for the new policy and who seek federal permission to remain in the United States legally…
The New York Department of State has set aside $600,000 for the legal counsel team.
The state also plans to expand its immigrant service hot line to include information about the policy and to direct callers to service providers who can help young immigrants.
The president’s deferred action announcement left eligible immigrants and potential applicants scrambling for details, since the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to finalize a plan for accepting applications and processing young immigrants. DREAMer-run groups like United We DREAM have stepped up to fill in the gap, putting out a Frequently Asked Questions guide and a warning for applicants to avoid notarios. To be clear: there is not yet an application process in place, and the application process will not be open until August 15.
Cuomo’s determination to protect New York immigrant youth from scammers may stem from his days as New York’s attorney general, when he made cracking down on immigration fraud a top priority. While plenty of organizations have taken steps to warn immigrants about notarios, New York state is going above and beyond in its dedication to prevent fraud.
As Cesar A. Perales, New York’s secretary of state, told the New York Times:
It’s not enough to say to people, ‘Be careful; some people want to take your money.’ What we’re saying is we’re also providing an alternative mechanism. That is what distinguishes what New York State wants to do from others who just warn you.