"The next bill before me is Introductory Number 223-A, sponsored by Council Members Stewart, Martinez, Reed, DeBlasio, Liu, Monserrate, Brewer, Palma, Reyna, Clarke, James, Barron, Jackson, Lopez, Comrie, Boyland and the Public Advocate. This bill would prohibit certain types of conduct by immigration assistance providers in New York City and would echo legislation recently passed by the New York State legislature that better defines the scope of immigration services and limits the activities of assistance providers.
"This legislation would give the City's Department of Consumer Affairs the power to regulate immigration consultants by prohibiting deceptive and fraudulent conduct as well as requiring responsible practices by consultants to better inform consumers of their rights. The law requires all consultants to maintain a bond that would create a fund to help compensate victims who have suffered financial loss due to immigration consultant fraud. The law would also impose civil and criminal penalties on violators of the law and allow victims to file a lawsuit or administrative complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs to seek recourse.
"While many immigration consultants provide legitimate and competent services to consumers, many others prey on immigrants by charging exorbitant fees and making false promises about immigration benefits that they cannot obtain or claiming influence with immigration officials that they do not have. These fraudulent practices often cause irreparable harm to immigrants including great financial loss, harm to their immigration status, and the risk of deportation. This legislation will help remedy this problem.
"I would like to thank the Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Gretchen Dykstra, her staff and the staff of the Office of Immigrant Affairs for their work on this bill. I would also like to thank Council Member Stewart and Council staff for their efforts on this legislation."