Immigration is always a hot topic in the U.S., especially right before an election. Instead of debating the merits of our current immigration policies, this article will focus on some of the crimes that disproportionately affect immigrant populations, particularly in New York.
It can be difficult to determine how often crimes occur because undocumented immigrants are often afraid of reporting when they have been victimized. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission received approximately 1,100 complaints from immigrants nationwide.
In Spanish-speaking communities, a notario is someone who can offer legal services. In the U.S. notary publics are not the same thing, and many times, people who are notary public pass themselves off as legal advisors, charging excessive fees without ever providing any legal assistance. In New York, notaries are licensed only to certify identities and signatures, and will not necessarily also be attorneys.
Another common scam is the 10-year visa. The Manhattan DA recently indicted a suspended immigration attorney after he offered a ’10-year green card’ service without fully explaining the process, which often involves deportation. Frequently, attorneys will tell immigrants who have been present in the US for ten years, have paid taxes, no criminal record, and have children who were born here, they could receive a work permit. In fact, this process usually involves an application for asylum. Qualifying for asylum is a very high standard. If the immigrant fails to demonstrate ‘exceptional and extremely unusual hardship,’ then he or she could be deported. Thanks to language barriers and fear, most immigrants do not realize that they have applied for asylum until they receive notice for their asylum hearing.
Sometimes, individuals will pose as immigration officials and threaten them with deportation. They will demand personal information, like passport numbers, credit cards, and social security numbers. They then use this information to steal their identities or liquidate their bank accounts. If the individual is here illegally, then they might be threatened with being reported to the authorities in exchange for a bribe or some other services they would not otherwise want to have. Immigrants are often duped into paying significant fees for what they believe to be legitimate paperwork or applications. Scammers have sold fake visas and plane tickets to immigrants as well.
Immigrants often face difficulties with work, particularly if they are undocumented. Sometimes, companies will hire immigrants and refuse to pay them, or pay them far below the minimum wage. They rely on the fact that immigrants will probably not report this to the relevant authorities. Other times, they are targeted for fake investment opportunities or pyramid schemes, or with a promise to expedite their immigration applications for a fee.
At the time of Trump’s election in 2016, then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made it a priority for immigrants to use the state’s resources to report crimes. However, according to WNYC, when asked if the New York state agencies had received more complaints in 2017 than in 2016, the answer was a consistent ‘no.’ Instead, their numbers decreased. Most agencies attribute this decline to the hostile environment immigrants currently face under the present administration. The D.A. has assured the public that his office is a safe environment for immigrants who believe they have been defrauded to report their situations.