to Regulate Immigration Firms
From The World Journal
April 29th, 2004
A bill going through the City Council specifies
the services that immigration consultancy firms are not allowed
to provide and requires
them to disclose rights to clients. According to the bill, offenders
would be subject to criminal or civil law procedures. The new
legislation has the support of Mayor’s Office of Immigrant
Affairs and the Department of Consumer Affairs. But the two agencies
said the bill is too lenient, and that licensing the service
is the only way to ensure effective management and law enforcement.
The bill was proposed by Kendall Stewart, chairman of the City
Council’s Immigration Committee, and 10 other council members,
including John Liu. It prevents immigration service firms from
guaranteeing their clients that their applications will be granted
and bans the firms from charging at exorbitant rates, advertising
as law firms, or claiming to have licenses to practice law. The
bill also requires the firms to return application documents
to their clients.
The bill requires the firms to provide their
clients with documents both in English and in the clients’ native
languages, explain the firms’ services and charges and
make clear that consultants are not lawyers and are not allowed
to provide legal service. It
also specifies that if the clients decide to revoke the contracts
within three days, all charges should be refunded, and that the
clients should receive a copy of all the documents.
The bill also
requires the firms to post notices in their offices saying “The
person who is providing service to you is not a lawyer; nor does
he/she have the right to deal with the Citizenship
and Immigration Services or other government agencies on your
behalf. He/She is not allowed to provide any legal consultation
you for any legal service.” According to the bill, the
notice should specify the firm’s schedule and fees. Similar
specifications also apply to the firms’ advertisements.
offenders would be subject to criminal charges and fines ranging
from $250 to $2,500, and repeated offenders are subject
to fines from $500 to $5,000. The proposed law also allows immigrants
to complain and ask for compensation.
Sayu Bhojwani, Director of Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs,
and Pauline Toole, Deputy Commissioner of Department of Consumer
Affairs, both acknowledged the important of the bill. But they
said City Council should expand the bill and allow for licensing
of the service to ensure effective management and law enforcement.
said a list of licensed firms should be available to protect
new immigrants who speak little English and are not familiar
the city from fraud. The list should be posted on the Internet
or printed on pamphlets, she said, and should be available
Toole said the Department of Consumer Affairs used to regulate
55 industries with licenses, and that according to her experience,
firms have to conform to laws when the municipal government
has the right to issue and revoke licenses. She also said
immigration service firms should provide guarantees, which would
less likely to close unexpectedly without fulfilling their
The guarantees would also help to compensate the clients
should such frauds occur.
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Translated from Chinese by Shasha Dai.