By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Advocates for immigrants living in Philadelphia are praising City Council for passage of a bill that tries to regulate private agencies that claim to help the newcomers… but often defraud them.READ MORE: Phillies Hit 4 Homers In 13-1 Win, Finish Sweep Of Nationals
They’re often called ‘notarios’ — scammers who demand thousands of dollars from new immigrants without any guarantee they can actually get them papers.
Amanda Bergsen-Shilcock of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians told City Council members the problem is rampant.
“Too often people are confused, misled and defrauded by bad actors who exploit their lack of detailed knowledge about American processes,” she said.READ MORE: Several People Injured After Tree Falls On Top Of Them In Fairmount Park Near Mann Center In West Philly
She and others came to praise Council for passage of a bill sponsored by Councilman-at-large Denny O’Brien that imposes the first-ever city regulations on notarios. William Stock of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said while immigration is primarily a federal issue, this type of fraud must be addressed at the local level.
“States and localities have a critical role in ensuring that the immigrant community within their bounds are protected from the unlawful practice of immigration law,” he said.
The council measure, among other things, requires that advertising by these agencies state in large letters if the operators are not lawyers. Penalties include fines and possible loss of business license.
“So it provides a critical tool for members of the community who’ve been harmed by service providers who are not licensed to be able to remedy that harm,” said Stock.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Weather: Week Starts With Muggy Conditions Before Cold Front Arrives
The measure passed unanimously in Council and is now headed to the mayor’s desk. Nutter’s spokesman says the mayor intends to sign it into law.