Immigration Fraud Plagues New Work Permit Program

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - Over the last few days, the phones of Odessa Attorney Gerald Lopez have been ringing off the hook.

"It's keeping my receptionist pretty busy," he said.

The same goes for the Odessa political association, Una Voz Unida.

"Our phone has been ringing off the hook," President of Una Voz Unida of Odessa, Art Leal, said.

The reason is that on Wednesday more than a million young illegal immigrants across the U.S. can apply for the executive order called: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

While it's not citizenship, the order can help these young people out.

"It's a two-year renewable work permit," Leal said. "It allows an individual a reprieve from deportation, allows them to get the necessary documentation to work and while they're working, they can go on to file the process to become citizens."

You have to meet requirements like being younger than 31, not having a criminal record and being in school with evidence to back it up.

You fill out the forms online on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and send in a fee of $465.

But getting all the right documents together can be tricky and West Texas scammers have been on the prowl.

"Taking people's money and running away with it, claiming that they can help," Lopez said. "We've heard of at least three cases."

That's just in the last week, two cases in Midland and one in Odessa, with the scammers taking at least $1,500 from people.

Now local officials are encouraging people to find other means of information and find more credible help.

"The National Immigration (Law) Center," Leal said. "They have a lot of information in Spanish."

"People should be careful where they go and what they're doing," Lopez said. "Talk to an attorney who knows what they're doing."

We don't know how long this program is supposed to last but there is an expiration date on the application forms reading February 28th, 2013.

Local attorneys also warn that the future of this program could change if a new president is elected this November and they repeal it.

For the information in Spanish provided by the National Immigration Law Center, you can find it here: