Work Visa Scam Victimizes Iowa Immigrants

A work permit scam in Iowa has put some of the state’s illegal immigrants in danger of being deported, according to a recent report in the Des Moines Register.

Jim Benzoni, a Des Moines attorney, described the fraud to the paper, and said he has specifically heard of it being perpetrated in the small town of Denison, Iowa. In the scheme, a legal assistant goes door-to-door, offering a work permit to anyone who files a $500 asylum claim. These legal assistants do not divulge that asylum claim applicants receive work permits while their cases are pending, but if they are not granted asylum, they face deportation.

Fernando, a 31-year-old man who declined to give his full name, told the Register he has been caught in such a scheme. He filed for asylum after being promised a work permit or green card, and now is flagged by immigration enforcement agencies that were not previously aware of his legal status.

In 2009, 2,198 immigrants were naturalized as U.S. citizens in Iowa, up from 1,465 in 2002, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.