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Today's word on journalism

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Former illegal immigrant tries to help others avoid work visa scams

By M. Cory Broussard

May 1, 2006 | LOGAN -- Thirty thousand dollars. That's how much was stolen from illegal immigrants at just one location in Logan, says Juan Luna. Illegal immigrants are being duped out of thousands of dollars when they try to apply for work visas, says Luna, a construction worker and former illegal immigrant.

Luna says that local businesses and individuals send out flyers saying that they will help immigrants file the paperwork necessary to obtain a work visa. What they don't say is that work visas for illegal immigrants don't exist -- and when the paperwork, with all their information on it, is sent in to the Immigration and Naturalization Services they risk being deported. Illegal immigrants are paying to tell the INS where they live and how to find them.

Since the applicants are generally illegal, they don't want to go to court or report the money that was stolen from them out of fear of drawing attention to their status.

It is a persistent problem that is not being addressed says Luna. "The only way to really fight this is to educate people."

Luna, with help from Hyrum city and Utah Legal Services, has set up a seminar that he hopes will bring light to a dark situation. The seminar, which is free to anyone who wants to come, will address problems such as immigration, housing, and the elder community.

"Right now there is a lot of confusion and no one knows what is happening," Luna said. With constantly changing laws, there is no way for Hispanics to find out what information is correct, Luna said. Many Hispanics can't read or write English, and the local radio stations don't provide the necessary information to help immigrants.

Beyond the information problem, immigrants face mounds of paperwork, fees and tests to become legal. Fransisco Ramirez, now a legal immigrant, knows of the problems. It took 10 years, and thousands of dollars, before the Immigration Act of 1990 raised the ceiling on the number of immigrants in a year enough to allow Ramirez to become legal.

"I was very lucky," Ramirez said. "This country opened its arms to me."

Things are not so easy now, Ramirez says. Immigrants might spend years in the country, working and applying for citizenship, but never get it. And harsher immigration regulations are on the horizon.

HR3137, proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, would make it a felony to be in the country illegally, punishable with up to a year in jail. The illegal immigrant wouldn't be deported as they have in the past, they would just sit in jail.

This and other proposed bills just add to the problem, according to Luna.

While new immigration laws are causing more of a problem, Luna wants to focus on something that he can change. He has contacted Utah Legal Services not only to speak at his seminar, but also to find legal solutions to the illegal activities taking place.

"I went through this and I was deceived like a lot of people," Luna said.

One Internet site, US Citizenship.info, charges $99.95 plus INS fees to file an immigrant's citizenship info.

The U.S. State Department website warns immigrants of such websites, saying that "websites may attempt to require you to pay for services such as forms and information about immigration procedures, which are otherwise free on the Department of State Visa Services website."

"I am legal now," Luna said. "But at one time I wasn't, and it hurts me to see what these people are going through."

Luna hopes that the seminar will stop that pain.

The seminar, entitled Charla Sobre Inmigracion, or a Gathering on Immigration, will be held on May 12 at the Hyrum Civic Center at 5:30 p.m.. Two attorneys and an assistant from Utah Legal Services will speak about the proper legal process for immigrating among other things. A question and answer session, along with one on one counseling, will be held immediately afterwards to discuss any specific problems attendees have.

 

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