Editor’s Note: Mark Alvarez, a local attorney and former city official with experience in immigration matters, has concise, on-point comments on the recent immigration fraud case emerging in a federal court in Utah.
I believe in honesty, but sometimes it is difficult.
This week, a federal grand jury indicted a Utah attorney and several others for immigration fraud. U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman announced the prosecution.
The story seems plain, mostly sad. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of undocumented immigrants, mostly Latino, were promised work permits. The work permits were genuine, but the immigrants had to go to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to pick them up.
The law is clear. An undocumented immigrant who has been in the U.S. for 180 days to a year is inadmissible to the U.S. for 3 years. An undocumented immigrant who has been in the U.S. for a year or more is inadmissible to the U.S. for 10 years. Truth for an undocumented immigrant who wants a work permit is a difficult option.
Undocumented immigrants had to lie in Ciudad Juarez to get their work permits. Those who successfully lied could get work permits, perhaps in some cases residence. Those immigrants who got caught in lies were rejected and possibly rendered ineligible for future immigration benefits.
For years, honest professionals have counseled against lying. Nevertheless, many undocumented immigrants have sought other counsel and run the risk of dishonesty. They do so out of desperation or frustration with a broken system that shuts them out. Most foreigners inside and outside the U.S. have no legal opportunity to reside in the U.S.
Some undocumented immigrants have lied and gained benefits in the form of work permits and residence. I refuse to judge them. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the U.S. government stalls on reform that would implement a realistic system that encourages truth.
Meanwhile, immigration practice continues to present the question: what can an honest counselor say when so many of the paths to benefits require dishonesty?
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