Congressmen Caution Undocumented Youths to Avoid Scams
Two U.S. congressmen from Illinois are warning undocumented youths not to pay steep fees to get help applying for legal status under a new immigration policy.
Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, both Democrats, say most eligible youths can take advantage of the policy, known as "deferred action," without a lawyer or any payment beyond a $465 fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency accepting the applications.
"There are notarios as well as attorneys out there who are trying to take money away from these young people and their families," Durbin said Tuesday afternoon at a meeting with immigrants in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. "They say, 'Oh, give me $1,000, give me $2,000, and I will help you.' "
"Don't let them exploit you," Durbin said.
Under the policy, announced by President Barack Obama's administration in June, undocumented immigrants can request permission to stay and work in the country by submitting a document starting August 15. The administration, which has not released that document yet, is expecting more than 1 million requests, according to an Associated Press report.
To qualify, immigrants must be 30 or younger, have arrived in the United States before turning 16, have lived in the country at least five years, and be in school or graduated or served in the military. They also must have no criminal record and pose no safety threat. The permission to live and work in the country lasts two years and is renewable.
The policy does not provide a path to citizenship - a key difference from stalled legislation, known as the DREAM Act, that Durbin has pushed for more than a decade.
Durbin and Gutiérrez urged immigrants who may be eligible for relief under the policy to attend an August 15 workshop at Chicago's Navy Pier, where the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is organizing hundreds of volunteers to provide information and help fill out the applications.
Gutiérrez added that the policy could lead to an overhaul that stretches far beyond the youths. "It's incumbent upon us, now that we've got this, to move on to their moms and their dads," the representative said. "Comprehensive immigration reform is what is necessary and that's what we're going to work on next."
Conservative critics call the Obama policy a backdoor amnesty plan aimed at increasing the president's Latino support before November's election.