Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Immigration Fraud Booms

Lost in the recent commotion surrounding the proposed guest worker/amnesty provisions of immigration reform has been the rise of immigration fraud by leacherous "advocates." Consider the charges against Maria Maximo, who allegedly collected over $1 million in fees from unsuspecting immigrants only to have all 1,300 of their applications denied:

"Maria Maximo was supposed to be one of the good guys. A Honduran immigrant of Garifunan descent, she worked to help Garifunans (Hondurans of West-African origin) and other immigrants in her role as a community-board member, as an advocate for the survivors of 1990's Happy Land fire and as president of Jamalali Uagucha, Inc., an immigrant-services nonprofit in The Bronx.

"Instead, she allegedly stole their money. Lots of it.

"Last week, federal prosecutors charged Maximo with defrauding hundreds of undocumented immigrants of over $1 million in filing fees. She offered her services to naive people looking for a way to get legal work permits and green cards. She advertised that she'd file applications with the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for work permits and green cards at a cost of $500 to $2,500. But she surely knew full well that the applicants were ineligible.

"In 2004 and 2005, the U.S. Attorney's office says she filed 500 applications for work permits and 800 applications for green cards. She collected over $1 million in fees for these 1,300 applications - and all were denied. She faces up to 20 years in jail and $250,000 in fines if she's convicted."

Apparently Maximo's case is not an isolated incident.

"The GAO [General Accounting Office] audit found, for example, that nearly a third of all the applications filed for permanent residence for religious workers (one green-card category) over six months in 2004 were fraudulent. 'Some findings of the religious-worker assessment,' the report concluded, 'demonstrate that USCIS adjudicators do not always detect fraud during the adjudications process, thus allowing applicants to receive benefits for which they were not eligible.'

"...And some of the adjudicators the GAO interviewed admitted that their managers have been emphasizing 'meeting production goals, designed to reduce the backlog of applications, almost exclusively.' Fighting fraud isn't as big a priority." Article.


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