Congress has yet to pass an immigration-reform bill, but fraudsters already are claiming that visas are available and that a waiting list is being developed, the Washington Monthly reports. “The ink isn't even close to dry, and people are creating the false impression that people should start signing up now,” says the New York Immigration Coalition's Jackie Vimo. The biggest potential beneficiaries of reform might not be the eleven million undocumented immigrants eager for legal status. Instead, the winners might be waiting in the shadows: an army of “storefront coyotes”—a variation on the notorious profiteers who charge thousands of dollars to smuggle desperate immigrants across the border.
They also succeed by exploiting the Byzantine complexity of the immigration system, which is too intimidating for most laypeople to navigate on their own. The immigration coalition advises clients against applying for an immigration benefit on their own, because the stakes are so high. Says immigration lawyer Rachel Van Wormer, “You put the wrong things on your form, and you could be deportable.” While politicians jockey to craft a “tough” bill that piles on hurdles and paperwork for immigrants, unscrupulous entrepreneurs likely are salivating over the opportunities. Immigration advocates already report an uptick in profiteering.