Friday, February 27, 2009

Fake Immigration Attorney+ Real Clients= BIG Problems

By now, we are all aware that the immigration system is very much a believer that immigrants are guilty until they can prove otherwise. Guilty of what you ask? I don’t know and neither does INS or ICE-they are just guilty. This story is a direct result of immigrants and detainees having no right to court appointed lawyers and then having to resort to inexpensive and sometimes inadequate legal service. In this story we have a Dominican immigration attorney who practiced law in Dominican Republic but was never admitted to the bar in the United States. This man, Mr. Espinol, nonetheless declared himself an immigration attorney and targeting desperate immigrants, abused of the trust his Latino immigrant clients put in him. Mr. Espinol received payments from his low-income clients but would not file applications for green cards when he was paid for that among other services. Mr. Espinol infuriates me. Here is a man, in the position to help his community. The assumption is that he knows the despair in his clients; that he understands. Instead Mr. Espinol abused and exploited some of the most vulnerable people who sought him out for help. At the mercy of volunteer lawyers from the City Bar Association (NYC) in a legal clinic, Mr. Espinol’s clients find themselves in a dire situation. Some face deportation and have missed deadlines to file applications among other things. This story should remind us of the great responsibility we have taken. Many of us have met our clients and need no reminder of how REAL this is. I don’t want to resemble this Mr. Espinol not one second throughout this semester in respect to the inadequacy of my service to the client I am working with. This goes for all of us. We may not be real immigration attorneys, but everything we read, write, touch is real in these cases, and we must always be true to that.


Abby said...

This article is definitely shocking. The fact that this man created a “thriving business” out of exploiting vulnerable people seeking refuge in the U.S. is obviously disgusting. However, my interest lies not in how this man could possibly do something like this (unfortunately, many individuals are capable of such heinous crimes), but rather in how the U.S. responds to such instances of fraud in regards to the rights of immigrants.

Perhaps this example of fraud illustrates the need for an immigrant’s right to a court-appointed lawyer. This way, low-income immigrants facing detention and potential deportation won’t be forced to resort to inadequate lawyers and won’t be vulnerable to fraudulent ones.

It’s admirable that volunteer lawyers at the City Bar Justice Center have agreed to give Espinal’s victims a discount rate for continuing help; however, shouldn’t the government itself be taking a more active role? Those whose cases are still being reviewed may be able to avoid unjust deportation, but “those who already have been ordered deported may be out of luck.” Shouldn’t there be exceptions for the victims of Espinal’s fraud?

The article reveals that incompetence of legal advice was once grounds to reopen a deportation case. However, this is no longer in place (though many expect the Obama administration to reinstate this possibility). Moreover, even if the incompetence of legal advice was reinstated as grounds to reopen a deportation case, this policy won’t help Mr. Espinal’s clientele because it “does not cover bad advice from fake lawyers.” Clearly the U.S. government is not taking an active role in giving immigrants subject to fraud a fair chance to gain residency or citizenship.

champ88 said...

This is a shame. Although we are not real immigration attorneys we do have a responsibility to our clients to be upfront and honest with them. And personally I agree with Abby, maybe it is time for human rights activist to protest for court appointed lawyers even though these aliens are not citizens they deserve a lot more attention and respect because if Americans were treated like this in other countries there would be outrage. Although that means expanding the budget because of all the attorneys that would needed to be added also the hit that the court system would take because of the delayed time because of all the cases. But I am all for it if that is what it will take to make our judicial system better. If we claim to be the best country in the world, lets start acting like it...

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