Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
Hearing on: The Aftermath of Fraud by Immigration Attorneys
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unscrupulous notary publics, immigration consultants, and immigration lawyers have increasingly utilized fraudulent tactics to obtain immigration benefits for their clients. Unfortunately, this type of immigration fraud is usually identified after the fact, when an immigrant has already fraudulently obtained the benefit.
In order to combat this fraud, on June 9, 2011, the executive branch unveiled a multi-agency nationwide immigration service scams initiative.
As part of the initiative, the Department of Justice works with ICE and USCIS investigators to secure convictions – with sentences up to eight years in prison and forfeiture and restitution of over $1.8 million – for those who commit fraud on the immigration system as legal representatives.
But what of the immigrants who received immigration benefits based upon fraudulent applications? On its ICE website, ICE boasts of numerous instances where Homeland Security Investigations charged, and the Department of Justice has gone on to prosecute and convict, attorneys committing fraud. In one of the largest cases of immigration fraud in history, Earl Seth David and his law firm submitted fraudulent claims to labor and immigration authorities concerning tens of thousands of immigrants sponsored for immigration benefits. Davis pled guilty and faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. To date, the government has identified at least 25,000 applications submitted by his firm.
In another example, Maryland lawyer Patrick Tzeuton was convicted of conspiracy to prepare false asylum applications, immigration fraud, and obstruction of official immigration proceedings. Tzeuton prepared over 1,100 asylum applications, many of which are believed to be fraudulent. In support of these applications, he and his assistant submitted fraudulent supporting affidavits such as fake medical certificates demonstrating that an immigrant had been beaten and tortured in Cameroon. So far, of the 1,100 plus cases he handled, only 40 have been identified to date for “further action” by ICE and referred to USCIS. Although Tzeuton was convicted in 2009, none of the immigrants involved have been removed as of this date.
The jury is still out on whether DHS makes a concerted and vigorous effort to go back and revoke immigration benefits after attorneys have been found to have engaged in fraud. In some instances, DHS has apparently revoked thousands of benefits. In other cases, little seems to have been done, even where attorneys were convicted years ago and DHS boasted of uncovering the fraud. Clearly, how DHS responds to the David case will be the acid test of its commitment.
Immigrants who obtain benefits by fraud with the assistance of counsel make a mockery of our immigration system, which is the most generous of anywhere in the world. We must hope that at the very least when DHS proclaims that it has uncovered immigration attorney fraud it will conduct a thorough case-by-case review of the immigrants that the attorney represented.