During my tenure in public service, first as a state legislator and now as a United States congressman, it has been painful to watch our broken immigration system prevent Texas from reaching its full potential.
It’s been more than a year since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill, yet House Republican leadership has refused to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor for a vote.
Much of the public is rightfully confused about what options are available for those waiting to renew or apply for their legal status. While there are many community, religious and non-profit organizations providing legitimate immigration-related services, there is also a growing number of non-lawyers posing as legal consultants, often known as notarios, who are not licensed or qualified to give legal advice.
My congressional office has recently seen a rise in constituent service cases for victims of notarios and others masquerading as legitimate providers of immigration services. One such victim, Daniel, agreed to let me share his story.
After lawfully immigrating to the United States from El Salvador more than three decades ago, Daniel, a Texas resident and hardworking family man, desired to be reunited with his family and hoped that he might be able to sponsor their move here now that he is a U.S. citizen.
In the fall of 2013, Daniel heard an advertisement through an AM Christian radio station for immigration services. In October, Daniel visited the self-proclaimed immigration services provider, who said he could petition for his daughter and promised that she would be in the U.S. by December 2014.
Six months later, Daniel was out of pocket $3,800 and had not received word from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on his daughter’s petition.
From past experience, Daniel knew he should have at least received a confirmation that his application was received. He contacted the notario but wasn’t satisfied with his response.
As a result, Daniel reached out to our congressional office.
Once our office intervened, we were able to get to the bottom of his case and confirmed that Daniel’s application was never filed. He had lost six months and $3,800 and was no closer to bringing his daughter to the United States.
Daniel’s story is just one of thousands that highlight the need for Congress to assist immigrants who are the victims of fraudulent practices and to educate immigrants on the dangers of immigration service provider fraud.
In August, I will be teaming up with advocacy organizations and communities to gain the valuable feedback necessary to create legislation to protect victims and provide our communities with the information and tools they need to avoid falling prey to fraudulent practices.
While I continue to provide a voice for our vulnerable communities in the 33rd Congressional District, what America needs is for House Republicans in Washington to address the most dire issues facing our nation.
It is time to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor for a vote.