Should immigration consultants be banned from operating in the state of California in order to stem immigration fraud?
This is the question at the heart of a new bill that’s making its way through the California legislature. AB 638, the immigration Fraud Prevention Act of 2017, would essentially make the immigration consulting industry illegal and create both criminal and civil penalties for people who still practice.
Immigrants in California who need help with things like legal status renewal or applying for certain benefits will often go to an immigration consultant, who is not a full-fledged lawyer but is required to be vetted and bonded by the state. Immigration consultants can help people complete forms but can’t give legal advice. Consultants say they provide a necessary service and can do a number of the things an immigration attorney can do for less money and in less time.
Supporters say it will prevent some consultants with ulterior motives from taking financial and legal advantage of desperate immigrants who will do anything to stay in the U.S. Opponents say shutting down an entire industry is the wrong way to fight fraud and that banning the industry means the consultants who do honest work, the majority of the industry, would lose their livelihood.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Ricardo Marquez, executive director of the National Association of Immigration Consultants