Nearly Half of Chicago's Immigration Service Centers Face Fines in Crackdown

Some of the city's 54 service centers accused of dispensing legal advice

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    An undercover investigation of immigration services businesses, prompted after citizen complaints, has resulted in several of those businesses facing fines and license revocations.

    Miguel Campos, an investigator with Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said 24 of the 54 firms doing business as immigration service providers in the city were not in compliance with state and city ordinances that, among other things, strictly prohibits them from dispensing legal advice.

    "He was giving me illegal advice. He was giving me illegal opinion. He was informing me of what documents I would need to fill out in the future," he said after paying a visit to one firm and posing as a man wanting help with paperwork to bring his girlfriend to Chicago from Mexico.

    The advice seekers receive may have potentially unintended consequences. The simple filing of the wrong form can be enough to trigger a deportation, explained Mony Ruiz-Velasco, the Legal Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center.

    "We see it every day," she said. "That's a great harm that come in these cases."

    Campos returned Wednesday to one of the businesses, Escritorio Public Inc., on the 2200 block of West Cermak Rd., where he found violations.

    But owner Juan Moondragon insisted he was in compliance with the parts of the city ordinance of which he was aware and pointed to signs in his office indicating that he is not a lawyer.

    "Well, for one thing I think it's good that they're trying to get people who are passing off as lawyers but also at the same time they're killing the small businesss," Moondragon said when asked of the crackdown. "Basically we just talk to the clients and if they decide to do paperwork, they're fine. We follow up on whatever they say and whatever they want to do."

    The businesses that were cited face fines and, in the most severe cases, revocation of their business licenses if found guilty.