Fearful and undocumented Brooklyn immigrants were given hopeful signs of relief at the second annual immigration forum at Saint Matthew’s Parish Centre in Crown Heights on June 18.
The forum being held in a church building did not stop immigration experts from including the sacred house on its list of predators that undocumented immigrants should beware of.
“I have had real estate defraud cases involving churches — nothing is hands off,” said Richard Farrell, chief of the District Attorney’s real estate fraud unit. “Do not take financial advice at a church — go somewhere set up to give financial advice.”
Whether someone is documented or undocumented, they should not be afraid of seeking help from public services if they have been a victim of any crime, according to representatives from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
Black immigrants in New York City have a population close to 1 million people, with many hailing from the Caribbean, according to the New York Immigrant Coalition. But have lower rates of reporting scams, according to NYIC. Farrell says going to the District Attorney’s office is the safest way to report crimes.
“We, the D.A.’s office, will provide services regardless of your immigration status — because it’s the law,” said Farrell.
In its second year, the annual immigration forum is held to inform and educate documented and undocumented immigrants on how to protect themselves against money-seeking predators. The forum consisted of a panel represented by the United States Center for Immigration Services (USCIS), New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office — all there to quell misconceptions about the immigration.
Deportation, legal advice, scams, and especially fraud, were among the top issues discussed.
“If an immigrant has been defrauded through an immigration scheme, they do not have to go to any precinct in Brooklyn,” said Jose Interiano, Assistant District Attorney for immigration fraud unit. “You can come straight to us at the Brooklyn D.A.’s office.”
Undocumented immigrants with paperwork being processed must also always be cautious of who they seek legal advice from, and to stay informed by an accredited attorney, said a representative for New York legal Assistance Group.
“Please make sure you are speaking to an actual attorney,” said Michelle Roberti, an immigration attorney for New York Legal Assistance Group. “If you file false immigration paperwork, and somebody actually sends this stuff to USCIS — the person who is going to be hurt is you.”
Each organization has a website to seek valuable information, but if someone is unsure of its validity, they can go to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office at 350 Jay Street.