The seal of the Executive Office for Immigration Review / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

One well-documented problem for people with cases in immigration court is that the system, unlike criminal court, doesn’t require that people be represented by a lawyer. People who have a lawyer often have better outcomes than those who don’t.

But there’s another problem: Some people purporting to be immigration attorneys are not attorneys at all. They prey on vulnerable people in desperate situations — taking their money without doing anything to help them avoid deportation.

California is cracking down hard on fraudulent immigration attorneys, VOSD contributor Lyle Moran reports.

“The bar only referred 10 unauthorized practice complaints in 2015, but it sent along 443 and 315 to law enforcement in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In the first nine months of 2018, the bar has already surpassed last year’s total, making 356 law enforcement referrals,” Moran writes.

In one San Diego case, the wife of a Hungarian immigrant paid a woman $3,000 for legal help on her husband’s case. The woman wasn’t a licensed attorney, and did nothing to help the man was ultimately deported. The DA’s office prosecuted the fake lawyer, and she was sentenced to jail time in August.

One San Diego lawyer said immigrants are more vulnerable to such scams during times when they feel scared about their future.

“I would not be surprised if there are more people trying to prey on this community because there is a heightened degree of desperation,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the Other Side of the Border …

When Telemundo reporters confronted Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum about the city’s devastating homicide rate back in August, he evaded the question.

Gastélum did acknowledge the violence in his city when he appeared recently at VOSD’s Politifest, and he mostly blamed the challenges on a shortage of police officers and federal weapons laws in Mexico, Maya Srikrishnan reports in this week’s Border Report.

“Well first of all, if you go anywhere, any place in the world – worldwide – and if you’re going looking for trouble, you’ll find trouble,” Gastélum said. “If you go and visit a place and you look for the tourist places, look for the good behavior, you won’t have any trouble. We do have a problem, yes we do. We recognize it. We have a gun problem.”

City OK’s Styrofoam Ban

The city on Monday voted to ban many common uses of foam plastic – commonly known as Styrofoam – and to prohibit restaurants from giving out single-use plastic straws and utensils unless customers ask for them. San Diego is now the largest city in California to ban foam plastic, though other large cities, including New York, have already approved similar bans.

The city’s plastic foam ban covers food and drink containers, egg cartons and coolers. San Diego decided to ban the material, which litters beaches and pollutes the ocean, after a short-lived, money-losing attempt to recycle the material.

In Other News

  • Imperial Beach is considering options to deal with sea-level rise that many seaside communities aren’t willing to contemplate. (High Country News)
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign sent out a letter from three retired military officers warning about security threats if his opponent, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is elected. “It’s an anti-Muslim campaign against a person who isn’t even Muslim,” tweeted CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski.
  • The California Innocence Project, based out of San Diego’s California Western School of Law, announced on Monday that one of its clients had been declared factually innocent after spending 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The murdered woman’s husband and his nephew were arrested for the murder, the L.A. Times reported.
  • CityBeat reporter Andrea Lopez passed along the news that city of San Diego staff thinks the storage facility for property belonging to homeless people in Sherman Heights may reach capacity as soon as this week. That means that the city will have to go back to waiting 72 hours before disposing of someone’s property left on the street. Here’s some context on what the city can and can’t force homeless people to do. The city had a new legal settlement in place that allowed it to remove property after just three hours of trying to alert owners — if there is space at the storage facility.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby.

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