CBS Local 2 Stands for You, with a word of warning about valley businesses which offer legal services to undocumented immigrants.
One service provider in Cathedral City is accused of taking $4,300 from one immigrant, without providing the help the immigrant was seeking.
“The immigrant community is a vulnerable population, and it is an easy target,” said attorney Rosa Elena Sahagun, while talking about the case involving her client Indio resident Lindy Brau.
In 2012, the immigrant from Mexico paid Cathedral City paralegal Sara Salcido $4,300 for help in obtaining a U Visa, a necessary document for immigrants to receive assistance when they fall victim to crime.
Brau applied for the U Visa after she was robbed at her home in Indio
As it turns out, Brau is not even eligible for a U Visa, according to Sahagun.
However, Salcido has not returned Lindy’s money.
“I am completely furious, because she is not only doing this to Lindy. She has done it to a lot of families, and the tactics she has employed with Lindy are embarrassing,” said Sahagun.
A judge recently ordered Salcido to return the money to Lindy, a mother of five who does not speak English.
CBS Local 2 paid a visit to Salcido’s office to ask about Lindy’s money. We were told Salcido was not at the office at the time.
Salcido has not returned our phone call.
Sahagun, who is representing Brau pro bono, says Brau’s situation is just one example of the widespread problem of unscrupulous operators taking advantage of immigrants seeking legalization services.
It is a problem expected to become even more widespread in the coming months with president Obama’s executive action on immigration allowing more immigrants to remain in the United States.
“It is very difficult to either document the number of victims or to quantify the amount of money people are losing as a result of immigration fraud. People are afraid to report it and people don’t want to be on the radar,” said Sahagun.
As a warning for others, Sahagun offers recommendations to immigrants looking for help with legalization.
First, find competent legal counsel.
Also, obtain a written contract detailing the services being provided, and obtain a receipt.
“People that are looking for immigration relief need to know that not everybody will have an answer to their problem,” said Sahagun.
Sara Salcido is scheduled to appear before a judge March 13th.