Radio ads prey on immigrants’ worst fears

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Consumer Action warns that hiring an immigration attorney may be unnecessary until one receives a deportation notice

Editor's note: Click here for a Spanish version (en Español).

President-elect Donald Trump made news with his threat to deport some 11 million undocumented U.S. immigrants, and struck fear into the hearts of those without residency permits.

Now, unscrupulous entities are capitalizing on Trump’s trumpeting, and misleading vulnerable consumers. One of Consumer Action’s community-based organization contacts in Los Angeles alerted us to an ad she heard on a local Spanish language radio station that warned, with Trump in office, undocumented residents should hire a lawyer immediately. (Unsurprisingly, the ad suggested listeners call the ad’s sponsor.)

While anyone who receives a deportation order is advised to seek legal representation immediately from a reputable immigration attorney, there’s no point in doing so for people who are not being deported.

Undocumented immigrants who seek legal counsel should look first to the pro bono services and free resources offered by non-profit organizations like the Immigration Advocates Network, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the National Immigration Law Center and the National Immigration Project (which also provides technical support and trainings to immigrant communities, community-based organizations and advocates).

These ads targeting limited- and non-English-speaking communities and vulnerable individuals veer into dangerously deceptive territory. No firm should capitalize on the unknown in a way that encourages consumers to spend money to retain an attorney out of fear mongering.

Now, more than ever, it is important that community-based organizations educate their clients about the opportunists who would prey on their fears and help those clients to understand what policies their city/community may already have in place to protect them. There are over 300 communities all over the country that have designated themselves “sanctuary cities” (meaning they have enacted a range of policies to protect immigrants, sometimes including free legal services). Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently created a task force to help undocumented immigrants and pledged $1 million for a legal defense fund. Cities like San Francisco and New York also have enacted policies that prohibit municipal employees from reporting undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Top Democratic lawmakers in California last month introduced measures that would provide free legal help to the state’s undocumented immigrants during deportation proceedings, offer more assistance in criminal courts and further limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration agents.

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Through multilingual consumer education materials, community outreach and issue-focused advocacy, Consumer Action empowers underrepresented consumers nationwide to assert their rights in the marketplace and financially prosper.




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