New York to protect illegal immigrants from fraudsters (Photo : Flikr)
New York state has launched an initiative aimed at protecting illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, helping them hire lawyers and avoid fraudsters peddling dishonest legal services.
The plan comes more than a month after President Barack Obama signed an executive order stopping the deportation of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before the age of 16, have lived here for five years, have no criminal record, are no older than 30 and are either students, high school graduates or military veterans.
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Obama's order will allow those illegal immigrants to secure work visas, driver's licenses and other documents. While it does not offer permanent legal status, it provides a reprieve from deportation known as "deferred action."
New York's initiative will help pay for immigration lawyers at nonprofit organizations to provide consultations to qualified illegal immigrants applying for deferred action.
The state had allocated $600,000 to nonprofit groups for hiring attorneys to help New Yorkers become naturalized citizens.
In addition, the state plans to coordinate with state bar associations to improve access to pro bono lawyers, expand the state's immigrant service hotline to include information on the new policy and conduct multilingual outreach.
The plan is intended to foil sham "consultants" who frequently prey upon immigrant communities by offering untrustworthy legal advice, often at inflated prices. In Manhattan, for instance, most of the 2,300 complaints handled by the Manhattan District Attorney's Immigrant Affairs Program since 2007 concern accusations of fraudulent legal assistance.
"We need to make sure these young people are not taken advantage of as they seek to come out of the shadows and contribute to our society," Cesar Perales, New York's secretary of state, said in a statement.
"This is an opportunity for young people and an opportunity for our State and its economy. It should not be an opportunity for con artists."