A woman in Clearwater, Florida whose business was to help immigrants get documented so they could work in the US has been found guilty of preparing phony claims for asylum—274 of them! Hat tip: Susan
From Tampa Bay Online:
TAMPA – Barbara Branks said she was only trying to help immigrants.
The owner of La Gringa Professional Immigration Services said she fabricated documents and asylum petitions because her clients needed her.
“As God is my witness, at no time did I intentionally seek to defraud this government,” Branks, 58, tearfully told a federal judge today. “My focus was on the client. … It was never for financial gain. It was just my passion to help.”
Branks was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison for conspiring to make false statements in documents required by immigration authorities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eduardo Toro-Font told U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington that Branks acted out of greed, and that her crime injured the integrity of the immigration system, harming those who follow the rules.
Toro-Font said Branks filed 274 fraudulent asylum petitions.
As a result, immigration officials and attorneys will be forced to spend time reviewing every document from clients of Branks’ Clearwater business, he said. Even those with legitimate asylum claims may be forced to return to their home countries to face persecution because Branks helped them take fraudulent shortcuts.
What does asylum mean? That’s a question a reader asked recently. Here is a good definition from this article:
To qualify for asylum, an immigrant must prove he has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. He must prove that either his home country was the persecutor or is unable to control the persecutor.
Asylum seekers are generally here in the US already, having gotten in under some other program (like a student visa) or illegally and then apply to stay. That is what Aunt Zeituni is trying to prove now—that she would be persecuted if she returns to Kenya. Refugees are brought to the US by the State Department.
This Florida case reminded me of a Maryland case we reported a year ago, here.
Last night I told you about more immigrant food stamp scams, here. The poor American taxpayer is getting it from every direction!