On March 2, 2007, the Los Angeles Times ran an article detailing indictment of one prominent immigration attorney and the guilty plea of his partner. Alleged wrongdoers who "served" the Filipino community for years were accused of, and some pled guilty to: filing false employment visa applications for clients and staff. Would you believe it? Immigration attorneys violating immigration laws?
Over the past few years, clients have sought my advice after learning that their prior attorney or paralegal/immigration service was in "trouble" with authorities. This not only pertains to the individuals that were the subject of the article. Rather, the practice is apparently widespread, especially in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles. It goes on in all communities, not just the Filipino one. And, these wrongdoers who commit fraud take the visas of hard working men and women like you who are otherwise deserving of a visa because you are doing things legally.
If you were represented by any attorney or paralegal accused of wrongdoing, obtain your immigration file and determine what exactly has been filed on your behalf. See if the statements made on the forms, which by the way are made under penalty of perjury, were true. Your file must be provided to you in reasonable time (normally interpreted as 10 days) regardless of whether there are outstanding fees owed. It is also advisable to seek a copy of your file from USCIS under the Freedom of Information Act or "FOIA".
By taking a close look at what has been filed on your behalf an experienced attorney can determine whether your case is bona-fide (a real case) or not. Where a case is "questionable", one should consider withdrawing the same to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. All alternative methods for obtaining immigrant or non-immigrant status must be explored at that time.
Many individuals are fully qualified for the benefits they sought. There is, however, the question of fraudulent cases tainting the remaining legitimate ones being handled by the same firm. Put differently, and as your grandmother may have told you, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
Where it is possible to verify that all aspects of the immigration case do have merit, and the case is already pending (beyond normal processing times) an attorney may wish to consider take forceful action to push this case to its conclusion. Where the client has a strong case it is advisable to seek the help of the Federal courts through a Writ of Mandamus to compel action on the case.
A Writ of Mandamus puts the government on notice that they have gone beyond reasonable processing periods to approve or deny a case. Once filed and served on the government, USCIS has 60 days to decide the case or file a response with the court stating its reasons for failing to make a decision on immigration case. To avoid court orders most cases are adjudicated within this 60 day period or shortly thereafter.
If you learn that your attorney or legal service has filed any application which you do not understand, or has taken action on your behalf which you have not ratified, the worst thing you can do is nothing. If you have any questions of this nature it is your responsibility to seek qualified legal counsel and make sure you are qualified for the immigration benefits you seek.
In sum, we at Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC commend the Federal and State agencies that worked together to bring down what appeared to be a fraudulent ring involving both attorneys, staff and job agencies. As mentioned in previous articles, be honest, be credible and while it may take time, at one level or another you will win and it can never be taken away from you.
Robert J. DuPont is an attorney with the law firm of Wilner & O'Reilly. Mr. DuPont Graduated from Yale University and USC Law School and is admitted to the California Supreme Court, and Federal District Courts in the Central and Northern Districts of California as well as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.