Illegal Immigrants continue to fall prey to scam artists posing as lawyers pledging to make their clients legal. And sometimes the scammers are actual lawyers charging desperate illegal immigrants thousands of dollars to help them apply for asylum or other avenues of residency that the attorneys know aren't likely to be granted.
Since 2000, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a division of Justice Department that oversees immigration courts, has suspended or expelled more than 300 lawyers who have run afoul of the law, according to a recent story in the New York Times.
We reported in 2006 that hundreds of immigrants across North Carolina were getting cheated by people posing as attorneys and legal experts, according to immigration lawyers and Latino advocates.
Not wanting to alert authorities that they're in the country illegally, many victims often don't report the crimes.
North Carolina has one of the nation's fastest-growing Hispanic populations. More than half of the state’s Latinos are believed to be in the country illegally. Many are desperate to become legal, yet few realize the odds against them.
Between 2004 and 2006, the number of court cases deciding whether someone could stay in the country has almost doubled, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Yet only 12 percent of the 264,723 cases heard in 2005 were successful. Eighty-four percent were sent to deportation proceedings.
Maria, a Mexican native who asked that her last name not be used because of her immigration status, said she met a man posing as an attorney through her church. She said she paid the man thousands of dollars to file a residency application on her family's behalf.
"We were so excited," she said. "We thought we were getting close. He promised to help us. Instead, he caused us problems."
Philip Turtletaub, an immigration attorney who later took on Maria's case, said the application never had a chance. Turtletaub said the family needed to be in the country 10 years, but has been here only eight.
"People are desperate," Turtletaub said. "No one likes to hear `no.' So, when someone says `Yes, just give me this amount of money,’ they do."