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The Central Valley News Collaborative includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, Valley Public Radio and Radio Bilingüe. The project was announced in late 2020 and began its work in 2021 with the Collaborative's reporters shining a light on how the Central Valley’s communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, physically and financially, by COVID-19. The Collaborative is now exploring how the drought and climate change could reshape the valley, and the lives of the people who work in the agriculture industry. The Collaborative is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation, with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.

Fresno City Council Approves Measure Targeting Immigration Fraud

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Juan Esparza Loera/Vida en el Valle
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A young boy attends a 2013 vigil in support of comprehensive immigration reform outside the federal courthouse in Fresno.

The Fresno City Council has unanimously approved a resolution that aims to combat immigration fraud against some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

The resolution, introduced by Council President Luis Chavez, aims to regulate how much immigration consultants can charge and what services they can actually provide. It would also require them to identify as accredited immigration consultants.

Immigration consultants can only offer non-legal help, such as translating documents or submitting forms. The regulation aims to crack down on the consultants who present themselves as “notarios,” often scamming people from Mexico or Central America, according to Chavez. 

“The term notario carries a more legal and more concrete weight over there,” he said.“They’re tied to the government; they have more power and more authority. ” 

It’s in part due to this confusion that people turn to unaccredited consultants or notarios, instead of immigration attorneys, Chavez said. Many of them end up with incorrect paperwork, or even deportation.

Despite no substantial changes in immigration policy under President Joe Biden, Chavez credits the administration’s position on immigration for an increase in the number of people interested in legalizing their status. 

“We’re trying to get ahead of that,” Chavez said. “We want to send a message that if you [commit immigration fraud] you’re going to be fined heavily or charged criminally.” 

He says code enforcement and the city attorney’s office will work together to implement the resolution. They’ll determine whether the consultant is in violation of the rules, which would result in a fine or could lead to prosecution. 

In Sacramento, Senator Anna Caballero, who represents part of Madera and Merced counties, is pushing a similar bill, SB 670, to curb immigration fraud across the state. 

Still, Chavez said he’s hesitant to rely on the state’s legislation. 

In case the bill doesn’t pass, he said, “we will still have a local ordinance that will allow us to go after these folks that are using predatory techniques and sales pitches to our residents.” 

But Lazaro Salazar, a Fresno-based immigration attorney, argued the resolution should not be implemented until SB 670 is approved. 

“Because the resolution is premised on existing law and Caballero is about to change that law, potentially,” Salazar said. “Perhaps we ought to give Caballero’s bill a chance to go forward rather than do something premised on old law.” 

This story is part of the Central Valley News Collaborative, which is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.

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