Beware of the ‘Immigration Consultant’
By Anish Vashistha
Los Angeles , CA
Many foreign nationals, whether from Pakistan or from somewhere else, who are seeking legal status in the United States are unfamiliar in general with the American legal system and in particular with reference to the requirement for one to be licensed to practice law.
Frequently, such individuals are referred to an “immigration consultant” because their acquaintances, friends, or family members inform them that the consultant can help them obtain legal status cheaply and quickly. This referral combined with the consultant’s common ethnic and linguistic background, draw the foreign national to hire the consultant to handle immigration matters. Sometimes the consultant even lies to the foreign national and states that he/she is an attorney when in actuality the consultant does not have a license to practice law.
The results oftentimes are disastrous for the foreign national who finds himself/herself without legal status, placed in removal proceedings, charged with committing fraud, and/or deported from the United States. Meanwhile, the consultant continues operating his/her business and defrauding more individuals through the unlicensed practice of law. Unfortunately, such fraudulent schemes have become quite sophisticated and common to the extent that many immigration attorneys partner with the consultants to acquire more clients. The consultants may even work in attorneys’ offices posing as interpreters but in reality provide legal advice to clients. The clients may never even meet the actual attorney who signs the forms and briefs that are being filed with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and/or with the United States Executive Office for Immigration Review. Despite their omnipresence, such partnerships are illegal.
On September 23, 2010, three attorneys and an interpreter who worked with them at the law firm of Sekhon & Sekhon were sentenced in Sacramento, California to prison terms after being convicted in federal court for orchestrating a scheme to defraud USCIS in connection with the filing of hundreds of false asylum claims for individuals from Pakistan, India, Romania, and Moldova. These asylum applications were filed between 2000 and 2004. During the trial, several former clients of the convicted lawyers testified that they were not persecuted in their home countries but that the law firm drafted fictitious asylum claims for them. Such testimony combined with the other evidence obtained against the attorneys and the interpreter led to their convictions.
For the clients of Sekhon & Sekhon and who did not cooperate in the prosecution of the attorneys and the interpreter, it can be expected that USCIS will attempt to reopen their years-old asylum claims even if those clients have already become permanent residents or citizens of the United States. The United States government can attempt to strip someone of United States citizenship or permanent residence at any time if the government determines that fraud was used whether directly or indirectly in acquiring such citizenship or permanent residence. Therefore, foreign nationals are advised to be wary of an immigration consultant’s or attorney’s purported credentials and to ensure that it is an attorney who is providing them legal advice and preparing their documents.
(Anish Vashisth, is a licensed attorney and has helped several Pakistani nationals obtain or maintain legal status in the United States. He may be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 433-7016, by email at Consult@HazanyLaw.com, or on the web at www.Lawyers-Immigration.biz/immigration.html)