June 28, 2004 – Immigration consulting is a booming business in California, defrauding undocumented immigrants out of millions of dollars. The consultants help immigrants fill out government forms, many only in English, to legalize their status. California requires no training or tests and the industry is almost unregulated by law enforcement. The Fresno Beeâ€™s Doug Hoagland writes, "Anyone can become a consultant. Manicurists go through more training in California."
California requires only that consultants take out a $50,000 bond to cover any damages, complete a written contract in the native language of the client detailing the services to be rendered, and post a sign saying they are not lawyers. (Consultants are forbidden from giving legal advice, including which forms to fill out.) One consultant joked that the sign means, "I canâ€™t do a damn thing for you. I canâ€™t tell you anything. Youâ€™d be a damn fool to use me."
Fraud is rampant in the industry. In Orange County, employees at an immigration services company remain fugitives after collecting more than $3 million from over 2,000 Hispanic immigrants, according to the Orange County District Attorneyâ€™s Office. The company filled out paperwork for asylum for the immigrants--a designation that is almost impossible to get. Some consultants prepare asylum forms regularly. Once in the court-room, these claims are almost always denied, but there is a chance to convince the judge to grant a green card after denying asylum. This strategy is extremely risky. Many who have been persuaded by consultants to file asylum have been deported.
Roger Daniels, emeritus professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and author of a book on immigration policy notes, "The basic fact that allows consultants to thrive is that American industries are hooked on cheap immigrant labor, whether it is legal or illegal."