News & Views » Columns

Adios, shysters

by

comment

If you see State Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-southwest Detroit, give him a pat on the back. Tobocman spearheaded a bill called the Michigan Immigration Clerical Assistance Act (MICA) intended to protect immigrants from so-called “immigration consultants.”

Last week, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the bill into law.

Tobocman says many unsuspecting immigrants — both legal and illegal — turn to unscrupulous consultants for legal advice. Some have paid thousands of dollars to consultants who take their money and run. In some cases they make legal matters worse for immigrants and get them deported.

Metro Times did an exposé on consultants last year (“Exploiting immigrants,” Nov. 5, 2003).

Anyone driving along West Vernor Highway in southwest Detroit will see dozens of signs posted by people offering assistance with immigration matters. What lures some newly arrived immigrants is the Spanish term “notario publico” — notary public.

In many Latin American countries, a notario publico is an attorney. Immigrants see such signs and assume the person is a lawyer and qualified to help them, when notary publics in this country can merely verify signatures on documents.

Tobocman’s district has a large Spanish-speaking community. He’s frequently received complaints from social service groups and churches about immigrants who were swindled by crooked consultants. Many immigrants — particularly if they are in the country illegally — do not press charges for fear they will be deported.

MICA will allow attorneys — instead of fearful immigrants — to be plaintiffs in lawsuits against consultants. MICA also requires people who profit from providing immigration services to post a $50,000 bond, and put in writing — in the client’s native language — the services they provide.

Those who violate the law are subject to fines and prosecution.

Gracias, Señor Tobocman!

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.