illegal immigrant tries to help others avoid work visa
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
It is a persistent problem that is not being addressed
says Luna. "The only way to really fight this is to
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
"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.
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.
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.