A bill aimed at cracking down on immigration fraud is making its way through the California legislature.
The bill would effectively eliminate immigration consultants. Only lawyers or people who are approved by the federal government would be able to help with filling out immigration forms.
Daniel Sharp, with the Central American Resource Center says consultants are wrongly giving legal advice when helping with forms.
“Consumers have questions. Do I qualify for a U-Visa? Is my husband required to leave the country if I petition for him? Is it safe for me to even file an application?,” Sharp says. “Those answers constitute legal advice and the consequences of getting it wrong are severe.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, who sponsored the bill, agreed. She says these consultants should not be giving legal advice without a license.
“If the legal advice is wrong, then the full brunt of that impact falls on the immigrant and their families,” Caballero says. “They become deportable, they become detainable, including family members as well.”
But opponents say doing away with the profession as a whole is the wrong way to deal with the few bad actors who are giving faulty legal advice.
Hugo Acosta opened up an immigration consulting business in the Los Angeles area 22 years ago, after his family was helped with their own immigration.
“We could not afford an attorney. And it was with the help of an office like this that we were eventually able to go through the process,” Acosta says.
Carolina Romero, an immigration consultant in San Jose, says most consultants are ethical and they merely help immigrants with translation and filling out lengthy documents.
“They place trust in our office and in our services, so now, where are they going to go?” she says. “And how much are they going to pay for the affordable services they can get through an immigration consultant?”
The bill passed the Assembly and a key Senate committee, and now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.