Undocumented immigrants looking to qualify for President Barack Obama’s new “lawful action” program were warned by the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento on Monday about dishonest attorneys and immigration consultants – known as “notarios” – who make false promises, take their money and run.
Backed by a group of lawyers, clerics and immigration advocates, Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez said the new process will be implemented gradually, starting next year, and that it’s too early for anyone to be paying fees.
Under the president’s announcement Thursday, undocumented immigrants can be granted three years of immunity from deportation if they can show proof of residency and have clean records with law enforcement. The fee to apply is roughly $465.
“At this point, there is absolutely no request or payment of any kind that will allow anyone to access benefits for those measures,” Gutiérrez said. “To avoid fraud and abuse, we invite the community to stay informed on the process through official channels of the U.S. government and to contact the Mexican Consulate with any doubts they may have.”
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David Quintero, a father and undocumented immigrant who came to California 27 years ago from Guadalajara, Mexico, said he was duped by unscrupulous attorneys who took his money but did nothing.
Quintero, 45, said he has been applying for legal status since he arrived in 1987 and has been ripped off twice. An attorney in Sacramento promised him a Social Security card for $500, and a second attorney in Merced, recommended by his brother-in-law, promised him a green card and amnesty for $1,500, he said. In both cases, Quintero said, he got nothing but false promises.
After watching Obama’s announcement with two of his teenage children, “We felt fantastic,” Quintero said. “I can get paid and get a better job. Now I make $350-$400 a week as a janitor and landscaper, and volunteer as a campus monitor at Rosa Parks Elementary.”
Because five of his six children were born in Sacramento, Quintero will probably qualify for what is now called DAPA – Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. It and another existing program, DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, have been extended or expanded under Obama’s announcement.
Consul General Gutiérrez said his Natomas office would become ground zero for thousands of undocumented immigrants in 24 Northern California counties who are seeking work permits and documents allowing them to remain in the country without fear of deportation for at least three years, as outlined in Obama’s action.
Gutiérrez announced the consulate would stay open an extra hour a day – from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily – offer free workshops with immigration specialists starting Dec. 3, provide one-on-one legal advice, and nearly double the number of appointments for Mexican immigrants to obtain consular IDs, which can be helpful in applying for the DACA and DAPA programs. The consulate also will provide financial support on a case-by-case basis for those who can’t afford the $465 fee.
Under the two new programs, more than 1 million individuals in California could qualify, said Rodrigo Baez, legal affairs consul. “This is not a permanent solution. It just stays the fear of deportation.”
Amagda Perez, executive director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and supervising attorney for the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, said many will qualify for temporary work permits, driver’s licenses, relief from deportation – and perhaps most significantly, the right to travel back and forth from the U.S. for humanitarian reasons such as a seriously ill family member.
“Some of the really sad stories we hear are, ‘My mother was dying, and I just couldn’t leave the country,’” Perez said. Now, undocumented immigrants who qualify under the new programs can apply for Advanced Parole, a program that allows them to leave the country for up to one year and return, she said.
Immigrants who are here on temporary visas and overstay them won’t qualify, Perez added.
The first step in the DAPA and DACA process is to collect documents showing a continuous five-year presence in the U.S., Perez said.
“Medical records, birth certificates for U.S.-citizen children, pay stubs, tax records using the federal government’s 110 forms and rental documents will be very helpful,” Perez said. Residents in rural communities who have been paid in cash will have a harder time, but church and school records, proof of farmworker training programs, citizenship or English-as-a-second-language classes will help, she said.
Those applying for DACA cannot submit anything to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website until Feb. 18, Perez said. For DAPA, applicants must wait 180 days, until May 20.
Applicants should not seek out immigration consultants now, but “just collect your documents and hold tight,” Perez said.
The California Rural Legal Assistance office and other organizations accredited by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals also will be assisting applicants in completing the process, she said.
For general information, contact the Consulate General of Mexico office, at| 2093 Arena Blvd. in Sacramento, by calling (916) 329-3500. The consulate also will provide a mobile app, “Mi Consulmex,” and answer questions at (855) 463-6395 or make appointments at (877) 639-4835.
Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed.
Expanded programs for undocumented immigrants
As outlined by President Barack Obama last week, two programs have been expanded or extended:
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is extended for children brought here illegally by their parents. It covers those who arrived under the age of 16 and have either graduated from high school, are trying to get their GED or have been discharged honorably from the U.S. military. It requires continuous residence from Jan. 1, 2010, instead of June 15, 2007. If applicants have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor such as a DUI or three or more misdemeanors, they may qualify for a three-year deferral from deportation, three years of work authorization and can qualify for a California driver’s license after Jan. 1.
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) will enable undocumented parents of U.S.-born children to apply for a three-year deferral from deportation and work permit. The parent needs to have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 21, 2010, and have no felonies, serious or multiple misdemeanors. Also, their children need to have been born in the U.S. on or before Nov. 20, the date Obama announced the program.
Cost: $465 ($380 filing fee and $85 photo/fingerprints fee)
Source: Bee research