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House Bill 4983 (S-1)
for Immigration Clerical Assistants
to Senate Committee on Judiciary
||June 4, 2004
Background: Michigan ranks 12th in the nation in the size of our foreign-born population (just above 500,000). Immigrants entering this country face increased scrutiny due to the heightened awareness and federal interventions imposed by federal agencies in response to the tragedies of September 11, 2001. As a result, new security measures and new Immigration Services procedures make it necessary for the individual to be able to rely on competent assistance in navigating such systems.
Many immigrants rely on private translation/immigration services as a way of overcoming language barriers, etc. However, according to an article published by Andrew Moore, visiting professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, many of the immigrants have been defrauded by people posing as attorneys or as persons authorized to give legal advice and assist in immigration matters. The State Bar of Michigan and non-profit immigration and refugee agencies report significantly more complaints in which people have been charged hundreds of dollars and received no services, or have had improper or false documents or applications filed on their behalf, in some cases, resulting in deportation charges. In summary, the failure to complete forms accurately has a negative impact on an immigrant’s status, naturalization, or work permit.
This bill intends to provide protection for residents in this state who seek information/assistance about naturalization and immigration matters from people hired to act in their behalf.
Description of Bill: The bill would prohibit an individual from providing “services” or acting as an “immigration clerical assistant” (ICA) unless the individual is placed on a list maintained by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. “Services” means any action taken on behalf of any consumer for the benefit of that consumer or another individual regarding the immigrant status, nonimmigrant status, or citizenship status of any consumer or other individual. The types of immigration-related activities include transcribing responses onto government forms; translating to a non-English language; drafting applications and other paperwork for a consumer; giving advice to a consumer, etc.
An attorney licensed in any state; and their staff, working under
The bill requires the ICA to apply to the department to be added to the list and pay a $250 fee. The applicant shall provide proof of having a corporate surety or cash bond for at least $50,000.00. The department will make the list available to the public. The department will renew the listing every three years at a cost of $90, and a $20 fee will be charged for late renewals or record information changes. Failure to renew a listing or provide required information may result in removal from the list. The Department will provide an ICA a “notice of noncompliance” for expirations/cancellations of bonds, etc., in order to attempt to bring the ICA into compliance. Removal from the list can occur if a person fails to comply with listing requirements, fails to comply with bonding requirements, or by court order.
An ICA may charge the following for services:
Up to $20 per page for translation of supporting documentation.
An ICA must have a contract for services and allow the consumer 72 hours to rescind the transaction. An ICA cannot offer legal advice on specified subjects, participate in the unauthorized practice of law, or represent that services rendered or offered constitute legal advice or legal services.
Violations of the act are misdemeanors, punishable for up to 93 days and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.00 A second or subsequent offense would be punishable for up to two years and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 A person injured by an ICA may bring a court action for equitable relief or damages, or both. The court shall also grant reasonable attorney fees and may order the ICA removed from the list for at least 5 years, or as otherwise ordered.
Summary of Arguments
Pro: One of the roles of government is to “help people help themselves.” This bill would allow the public to access a departmental listing to make sure the person they have hired to act on their behalf in immigration and other matters is in good standing and on a list of names authorized to perform such duties by the department. It is hoped that this bill would reduce the number of predators who promise results that can’t be delivered or those who pass themselves off as attorneys, and whose actions have been directly responsible for the deportation of many individuals who would otherwise be eligible for legal status.
Further, many people who solicit help in completing governmental forms are frightened that one false move could result in deportation or governmental reprisal. For this reason, they are often too willing to pay outrageous fees charged by people who might take advantage of them for these services. This bill keeps prices in check for ICA services and will hopefully create an adverse market demand situation for the people who are operating illegally and charging exorbitant fees.
The following support has been recorded in favor of this proposed bill:
Immigration Lawyers’ Association, Michigan Chapter
Con: Creating a law to require individuals to be added to a list may not necessarily result in the elimination of “underground” immigration assistance services. The fear of many immigrants to interface with governmental authorities may continue to drive them underground to seek unauthorized services. As the purchasers of illicit services, many immigrants may be reluctant to report incidents involving underground service providers for fear of further governmental reprisal.
The department is not aware of any opponents of this legislation.
Budgetary: The department estimates that the revenues charged for maintaining the list should be self-supportive, provided the bill directs the monies back toward the program.
Revenue: Although no solid figures can be provided, it is estimated that there may be as many as 500 individuals providing ICA services in Michigan. Therefore, as a rough estimate, 500 original applications would generate $125,000 (500 ICAs x $250), and renewal fees would generate $45,000 every three years, or $15,000 per year (500 ICAs x $90).
Comments: There is no way to accurately predict the number of ICAs that will seek to be added to the list, as those services are not currently quantified statistically. The department relied on the estimate provided by the legislative work group, which approximated 500 ICAs.
Budgetary: Section 9(3) states that the $250 will be used to “cover the costs of developing, maintaining, and administering the list;” therefore, the monies for the program are self-supporting. This bill should be neutral to the budget.
Revenue: Section 9(3) states that the $250 will be used to “cover the costs of developing, maintaining, and administering the list;” therefore, the monies for the program are self-supporting. This bill should be neutral to the budget.
Comments: The department currently maintains a list of interior design professionals. The costs of administering that program serve as a basis for determining the costs of administering the ICA program. Beyond the basic costs of developing and maintaining the list, this bill also adds the requirement for the department to serve “notice of non-compliance” if certain information is lacking, incomplete, or changes. The added costs of correspondence and processing were therefore added when calculating the cost/revenue basis.
Comments: This bill does not involve the department in enforcement activity. Instead, the local prosecutor would have that responsibility.
Other Pertinent Information:
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