Make the Road New York Aids Immigrant Who are Victims of Fraud, Reported by WNYC

Posted on January 12, 2018

For Immigrants, Reporting Fraud May Be Scarier Than Ever

Originally Posted by WNYC on January 11, 2018
Written by Beth Fertig

Shortly after President Trump was elected in November, 2016, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned immigrants that unsavory people were trying to take advantage of their fear of the new president-elect, by offering them phony services or by threatening to deport them unless they paid money. He urged them to contact authorities. “There is a robust infrastructure of government and nonprofit agencies in place in New York to help anyone who is scared and anyone who is threatened,” he said at a press conference, surrounded by posters with the phone number for a hotline run by the state’s Office for New Americans; It also gives assurances to immigrants that their status will not be affected by filing a complaint. “People are understandably frightened, and frightened desperate people are the number one target of scammers.” The New Americans Hotline serves immigrants in many ways, but it also takes complaints about scams. It’s run by Catholic Charities. Raluca Oncioiu, the organization’s director of immigration legal services, said 35 complaints were logged by the hotline in 2017. But she said it received 60 the previous year. “I think they wanted to tell us what happened,” she explained. “But at the last minute, when we’re trying to get their consent to complete the form, they just – they said no.” WNYC reached out to 22 district attorneys in some of New York’s largest counties with immigrants, asking if they’d received complaints. We heard back from 14, seven of which had information. Like the hotline, the seven prosecutors’ offices received fewer complaints in 2017 than in 2016, according to Silvia Finkelstein, an assistant DA in Nassau who also heads DAILA. “In 2016, our dedicated hotline received between 60 and 70 calls directly from complainants seeking to file a complaint,” she said, referring to her Nassau office. “And since January [2017], we have only received five.” One of the most common scams is the “ten year visa.” Undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time are falsely told by unscrupulous attorneys that they qualify for a green card. But what they’re really filing for is asylum — and they rarely qualify if they’ve been here for more than a year. Make the Road New York helped a victim of one such phony call by providing him with a lawyer to aid in withdrawing his false asylum application. “Our communities are terrified of coming forward even when they are victims of crimes,” Finkelstein added. “And I’m not just talking about financial crimes I’m talking about all crimes. Child abuse, sexual abuse, human trafficking, public corruption, elder abuse, domestic violence. Everything that we deal with as an office, assault cases, gang assault cases. The victims are terrified coming forward because they’re afraid that if they report the crimes they’re going to get deported.”

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