The New Legislation Forces Disclosure And Good Practices For Those Providing Assistance
New York City continues to be a destination for immigrants seeking a better life. The legislation recently passed by the council, will help regulate an industry where too many are taken advantage of and misled.
The legislation, which passed easily through the Immigration Committee, chaired by Brooklyn Council Member Kendall Stewart, is a major victory against unscrupulous individuals who prey on vulnerable immigrants, many of whom don’t speak English and are eager to trust someone to help them attain their dreams of citizenship.
"This is a good day for immigrants. It is a start whereby we can protect the illegal practices and the fraudulent ways in which some providers attempt to defraud immigrants," said Stewart. "No longer are these providers going to be invisible and disappear after they have taken immigrants’money and not provide the required service; no longer are they going to be claiming they are attorneys or they have special favors with the US Citizenship and Immigra-tion Services; no longer will they be able to have an office without a sign posted to clarify their fees, and no longer will they be able to refuse the returning of documents to immigrants. This bill in actuality is a vehicle where-by we can use civil and/or criminal redress for dishonesty."
Among other things the bill would:
• Require providers to enter binding contracts with all customers and in-form them of their rights
• Prevent providers from being paid for services they did not perform. It would also prevent them from refusing to return documents supplied, prepared or paid for by a customer when the customer requests the return of documents
• Require providers to post signs that clearly state that they are not attor-neys or otherwise authorized to represent clients in immigration matters
• Prevent providers from making statements guaranteeing government action or suggesting they have special influence with immigration authorities
• Prevent providers from misleading clients to believe they (service providers) possess licenses, accreditation or official authorization to provide advice on immigration matters.
More than two-thirds of New Yorkers are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. The measure voted on today is another step by the Council to ensure the protection of newcomers seeking a better life.
In fiscal year 2004 the New York City Council restored $1.8 million in funds at the Department of Youth and Community Development for instruction in English as a Second Language and legal assistance for persons with immigrant status. For fiscal year 2005, the Council has expanded the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, a pilot program that has provided support for English language services and civic classes since 2002, to include funding for legal services.
This legislation goes hand in hand with legislation recently passed by the State Legislature to better define the scope of immigration assistance services.
The legislation was unanimously passed by the full Council and will now go to Mayor Bloomberg who is expected to approve the measure. It will go into effect 90 days after being signed into law.