A new report, entitled “Dreams and Schemes in Queens, New York,” examines how employment agencies and immigration service providers swindle immigrants along Roosevelt Avenue, QueensLatino reported. The article was translated from Spanish.
The organization New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) recently presented the results of a project that examined how employment agencies and immigration service providers swindle immigrants along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens.
The report, entitled “Dreams and Schemes in Queens, New York,” was presented on Oct. 11 at CUNY’s Murphy Institute. Members of NICE did the research, along with help from the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center.
In order to determine if employment agencies and immigration service providers were obeying the law, NICE trained 10 of its members to go into various of them and ask to use their services.
Overall, the researchers visited 51 businesses in the neighborhoods lining Roosevelt Avenue. They also gathered data from 46 questionnaires and three focus groups (each with 14 people), where participants shared their experiences using these kinds of services.
Valeria Treves, director of NICE, said the goal of the project wasn’t to point the finger at individual agencies. “We don’t want to zero in on corrupt businesses, because they might shut their doors and move somewhere else,” she said. “We wanted to focus this project on the issue in general.”
New York State law says that immigration service providers must display signs that make clear they do not offer legal assistance. Despite that, the report revealed that 23 percent say they provide legal services and present themselves as “immigration law firms.”
The report also showed that 63 percent of the agencies NICE observed do not provide their clients with a contract, 23 percent told clients they qualified for work permits when in fact the applicants were ineligible, and nearly a third of providers promised positive results even though the law prohibits making guarantees.
After the presentation, a panel of experts discussed some of the recommendations NICE offered to end the fraudulent practices of immigration service providers. Laura Huizar, of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, supported the idea of increasing the power of the Department of Consumer Affairs. “We don’t have very harsh punishments in New York for agencies that break the law,” said Huizar.
Careen Shannon, an adjunct professor of immigration law at the Cardozo Law of School, thinks that for-profit immigration service providers should be prohibited. “I really don’t see how they help anybody,” she said, although she recognized that immigrants don’t have access to many experienced lawyers to help them with immigration matters.
Luna Ranjit, of the community organization Adhikaar for Human Rights, did not agree. “There’s an underground network of people who provide these services. If these agencies are banned, they might start operating illegally,” said Ranjit.
When the panel ended, City Councilman Daniel Dromm congratulated NICE on the report. Roberto Lebron, the assistant attorney general at the NYS Attorney General’s Office, also attended and recommended that NICE report the corrupt businesses to the authorities. Lebron said that a sign with suspicious information is enough for his office to start an investigation.