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Feinstein Introduces Immigration Fraud Prevention Act

Will make it a federal crime to defraud individuals on federal immigration matters; “put a stop to those that prey on immigrants”

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to make it a federal crime to defraud individuals in connection with any matter arising under federal immigration law.  In addition, the bill would make it a felony to falsely represent oneself as an attorney or a person authorized to represent clients in immigration proceedings.   

Although immigration law is a federal matter, there is currently no federal criminal statute to penalize and prevent immigration fraud.

“This bill would put a stop to those that prey on immigrants using the fear of deportation as bait,” said Senator Feinstein.  “Immigration fraud not only damages the lives of clients who need help in the complex immigration process, but the irresponsible handling of these cases clog our overburdened immigration courts and keep families and businesses waiting in limbo for years.”

Law enforcement officials say a growing number of fraudulent “immigration specialists” are operating across the country.  Holding themselves out as attorneys qualified to practice immigration law these individuals enter into fraudulent contracts to provide services to clients, promise permanent immigration status or other relief, and charge exorbitant fees to file immigration paperwork. 

In many cases, immigrants permanently lose opportunities for work authorization or immigration relief because these “immigrant specialists” have irreparably damaged their cases.

Feinstein added, “These scams dampen the hopes and dreams of many immigrants and deplete their hard earned savings.  One victim, Mr. Ibarra, a Mexican national and father of four who has lived in Los Angeles since 1988,  paid a so-called immigration specialist over $7,500.  In his apartment, Mr. Ibarra keeps reams of documents that the immigration specialist claimed to have filed on his behalf—but never did.” 

The Immigration Fraud Prevention Act of 2011 establishes a new federal law that makes it a crime to:

  • Defraud, receive money (or anything of value) from any person by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises;
  • Knowingly and falsely represent that an individual is an attorney or accredited representative in any matter arising under federal immigration law;

The Feinstein legislation also seeks to prevent immigration fraud by requiring the Department of Justice to compile and make available to the public a list of individuals convicted of immigration fraud.