Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) today announced the results of the second, citywide investigation of immigration service providers. This investigation of immigration service providers, often called “notarios,” is part of Mayor Emanuel’s effort to protect Chicago consumers from predatory businesses and putting an end to deceptive business practices by organizations that are meant to help individuals achieve the American dream.
“Preventing fraudulent immigration assistance providers from taking advantage of vulnerable consumers trying to navigate the naturalization process is a priority and a top committed for me,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This sting operation sends a clear message to bad actors that the City is ready to enforce the law and will not tolerate anyone from getting ripped off.”
BACP’s investigation targeted 31 immigration service providers, resulting in 30 businesses found to be in violation of the law. BACP’s investigation uncovered unlawful business practices such as incomplete or incorrect contracts, over charging, providing legal advice and falsely advertising as licensed attorneys. The investigation resulted in BACP issuing 59 Notices to Correct or warnings and 56 Administrative Notice of Violations or tickets, which may come with fines, ranging from $14,000 to $42,500.
Undercover investigations help reduce the incidence of fraud and unfair business practices by immigration service providers, helping further the goal of making Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world. In 2013, BACP issued 77 charges on 42 Administrative Notices of Violations to businesses that were not in compliance with the City ordinance regulating immigration service providers.
“This investigation has been a powerful tool for us to make sure immigrants aren’t being taken advantage of,” said BACP First Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Lewelling. “They are just one group of consumers we vigorously protect.”
In May 2012, City Council passed the Mayor’s licensing reform ordinance that requires immigration assistance providers to provide and display specific disclosures regarding cost and legal issues in multiple languages as well as a customer’s rights to file a complaint.
Consumers who encounter immigration assistance providers in violation of the ordinance should file a complaint with the City online or by calling 311. All complaints of these businesses charging exorbitant prices, providing unauthorized legal advice and promising service results that would be impossible to obtain are forwarded to the BACP. The complainant will receive an affidavit asking for a detailed explanation to initiate an investigation.
Residents seeking third-party assistance in navigating the immigration process have three options:
• A licensed attorney or legal intern who is employed by and under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney may render services in immigration matters.
• Non-for profit agencies accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may assist aliens in immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s immigration courts and BIA, or before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or both. All accredited representatives must be designated by an organization that is recognized by the Board.
• Immigration assistance service provider businesses licensed by the city.
In addition, the BACP recommends avoiding any immigrant consultant who claims to have special influence with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) other government agencies, or promises that immigration status can be “arranged” for additional money and/or represents themselves with titles other than immigration consultant. For the full immigration assistance laws, consumers should visit: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp/supp_info/immigration_assistancelaws.html