Young illegal immigrants should be wary of scam artists promising work permits as a result of the Obama administration's new immigration policy toward them.
That's the message from pro-immigrant activists worried that the policy, announced on June 15, by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will open up the door to scammers looking to reel in vulnerable undocumented immigrants.
Under certain conditions, DHS will stop deporting illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 through 30, and give them the opportunity to apply for work permits, according to the plan.
Eligible immigrants will be required to reapply after two years, and the policy does not offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal status.
Still, the potential for con artists is enormous, according to attorneys and activists. The Pew Hispanic Research Center estimates that more than 1 million undocumented individuals nationwide may benefit from the administration's move.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of fraud and...a lot of entities that are going to be profiting from this," says Ezequiel Hernandez, a local immigration lawyer who has worked with pro-immigrant groups in Arizona.
When DHS announced the deferred-action policy, it noted that in 60 days immigration officials would create a clearer path for those eligible to apply for work permits. But until more news comes from DHS, no one knows exactly what's going to happen.
"If someone says they want a work permit, [an immigration lawyer] has to say there is no work permit [process] right now," Hernandez explains.
One recent advertisement spotted by activists in a Spanish-language publication announced that Phoenix's Arianno & Repucci law firm was offering a $250 discount so young immigrants could start the process of obtaining a work permit, though an application process is not yet in place.