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Experts Warn Of Deferred-Action Scammers

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Bolivian Diego Mariaca(R) and his brother Gustavo Mariaca(L) fill out paperwork under the 'Dream Act' (Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages)

Bolivian Diego Mariaca(R) and his brother Gustavo Mariaca(L) fill out paperwork under the ‘Dream Act’ (Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages)

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Legislative Session Coverage

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Immigration experts estimate nearly 70,000 South Floridians qualify for the President’s Deferred Action plan, allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to work and study for two years.

However, advocates tell CBS4 that scammers are taking advantage of the new program and the excited applicants.

Monica Lazaro was just 8 years old when her parents brought her into the United States illegally, from Honduras.

“I came with the idea that I was going to Disney World,” she said.

She is thriving in Miami. She even became student body president of Coral Gables High. She had high hopes for college until she learned she had no papers.

“Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for financial aid because I didn’t have that social security number.”

An anonymous donor pays her tuition for the honors program at Miami-Dade College and she has begun her application for Deferred Action.

Advocacy group Americans For Immigrant Justice is helping her complete her application because they don’t want her to fall victim to a scam artist. Some are known as “notarios.”

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz also wants applicants to be careful.

“Unfortunately fraudsters, known as “notarios” are looking to profit on the hopes and dreams of some of these young people. Applicants should heed every caution,” she said.

AIJ President Cheryl Little agrees, and notes that she received reports of scams before the government even began accepting applications.

“It’s particularly a problem when you have a program like this and there’s a lot of publicity about it. So this is something that very much concerns us,” said Little.

Little says the new program and rush of excited applicants makes them easy prey for scammers who charge hefty fees, and often submit the application incorrectly- if at all.

“It can lead not only to the loss of 465 dollars, it can lead to a denial…or worse…deportation. Honestly every week we hear a different horror story.”

Monica is angry that some folks are scamming a quick buck out of young people just like her. People jumping at the chance for a new future.

“That they’re taking advantage of us, it’s really sad.”

Not only do the applicants have to worry about scammers, but they’ve got a lot of paperwork to deal with. It is a six page application with nine pages of instructions and they have to get it right. There are a number of free clinics giving applicants legitimate legal advice.

The AIJ is sponsoring what they are calling free “Florida Dream Clinics.” They are available for appointments:

August 25th, 8:30AM-5:00PM

College of Law

11200 SW 8th Street

Miami, FL33199

September 15th, 8:30AM-5:00PM

St. Juan Bosco Church

1349 West Flagler Street

Miami, Florida33135

September 22nd, 8:30AM-5:00PM

St. Juan Bosco Church

1349 West Flagler Street

Miami, Florida33135

September 29th, 8:30AM-5:00PM

Abundant Living Ministries

14331 SW 72 Street (Sheridan Street)

Pembroke Pines, FL33330

October 6th, 8:30AM-5:00PM

Abundant Living Ministries

14331 SW 72 Street (Sheridan Street)

Pembroke Pines, FL33330

> For more information or to work as a pro bono attorney for the clinics, visit http://aijustice.org/

The Archdiocese of Miami Catholic Legal Services is also hosting a free “Dreamers Deferred Action” session Saturday August 25th from 10:30AM-3:00PM. That event will be at 9401 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami Shores, FL33138

> For more information, visit www.miamiarch.org

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