I was dismayed (but not particularly shocked) to read about the arrests and indictments of persons involved in fraudulent schemes to obtain asylum for clients in New York City’s Chinatown and Flushing neighborhoods. You can read more about it in the New York Times or in the U.S. Attorney’s press release.
Careful readers of my website would know that I acquired a great deal of my immigration training from a law firm in New York City. A law firm in Chinatown coincidentally. For a little while, I harbored this fear that perhaps my old boss went rogue?! The answer is “Of course not!” Ferro & Cuccia is doing just fine. (Besides, you didn’t think that I would work for a place that would condone a scheme like this, did you?)
People seeking asylum inside the United States must prove that they may be persecuted on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group if they are returned to their home country. This is not a particularly easy feat. Additionally, studies have shown that immigrants with lawyers prevail more often than those who represent themselves.
One of the great responsibilities entrusted to immigration lawyers is the ability to guide people through an increasingly elaborate and difficult maze-like process. And yet, among the defendants are six lawyers who are accused of overseeing the fabrication of false declarations, feeding people stories that they should memorize, and funneling clients to a church official who would teach them religious doctrine.
Immigration fraud affects all of us. Legitimate asylum seekers with competent, ethical lawyers are forced to appear in front of USCIS asylum officers and EOIR immigration judges who are more cynical of the applicants in front of them. I’m not saying that the legitimate applicants don’t eventually get their cases granted. But I am saying that the process is undermined by the shady few who put their own financial interests above the rule of law that they took an oath to uphold.
Kudos to the SDNY U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the NYPD, and USCIS for catching these punks. If they are found to be guilty, I hope they are disbarred.
If you would like to meet with a decent human being who also happens to be an immigration lawyer about an asylum claim (or any other immigration matter), I invite you to contact me.
Also, if you live in the New York City area and can’t afford to come to Los Angeles to meet me in person, might I recommend some friends of mine who are decent human beings who also happen to be immigration lawyers: Rio Guerrero, Jason Lore, Jaime J. Wang, Neena Dutta, Dev Viswanath, David K.S. Kim, and (last but not least) Edward Cuccia at Ferro & Cuccia.