Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now! (36101)

Dear Mr. President,

For every immigration fraud scheme that is busted, there are undoubtedly many that go unnoticed, leaving the immigrants who fall prey to unscrupulous individuals more vulnerable and subject to deportation.

Recently, 26 people in New York City were busted for allegedly participating in separate but overlapping immigration fraud schemes relating to the submission of hundreds of asylum applications on behalf of Chinese immigrants, which contained fabricated claims of persecution. Interestingly but not surprisingly, at least 10 New York City area law firms created and submitted these fraudulent applications on behalf of immigrant applicants and coached them on how to lie to immigration authorities, according to Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Of the 26 defendants charged, six were attorneys and 21 worked at the various law firms, including as translators and at a church in Queens where the target was the Chinese community. There, in a church of God, an individual allegedly provided training in basic Christianity to asylum applicants and told them to falsely claim they were persecuted in China for their religious beliefs.

To perpetuate the schemes, the law firms allegedly made up stories of persecution that often followed one of three fact patterns: forced abortions performed pursuant to China’s family planning policy; persecution based on the client’s belief in Christianity; or political or ideological persecution, typically for membership in China’s Democratic Party or against followers of Falun Gong.

There is no denying now that U.S. immigration officials will be looking at each of the hundreds of cases filed, and for perpetrating fraud, these immigrants could now face prosecution and deportation. NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has already said that “while the NYPD is not investigating individual applicants for asylum, detectives will work with their federal partners to arrest anyone who exploits the system at others’ expense and potentially blocks legitimate asylum seekers from access to better lives in the process.”

It is sadly a double whammy for these immigrants, whose only crime in my mind came from the desperate need to get out of the shadows and have a chance at getting legal status in the U.S. I’m pretty sure the filings also cost big money too, and these struggling but hardworking immigrants thought it was the only way out of the black hole of illegal immigration that seems to have no solution.

It is why comprehensive immigration reform must become a reality sooner than later–reform that helps immigrants rather than leaves them prey to evil and unscrupulous attorneys and individuals, whose sole goal is to profit from the fear and desperation of undocumented immigrants.

Happy New Year, Mr. President. I look forward to an immigration reform bill before your inauguration as promised!


Felicia Persaud

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.