2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Vanessa Stine

Vanessa Stine

Name of Host Organization: Friends of Farmworkers
City, State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue area: Consumer Rights, Immigrant Populations
Sponsors: Anonymous

The Project

Vanessa provided direct representation, advocacy, and community education to vulnerable consumers who were victims of predatory and fraudulent immigration services in Pennsylvania.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Immigration services fraud occurs when non-lawyers prey on immigrants’ desire for legal status. Fraudsters lie to victims about their own qualifications to provide immigration assistance, about the availability of visas, and often rob victims of thousands of dollars and trigger permanent immigration consequences like deportation. Some licensed but unscrupulous lawyers also defraud their clients, misleading them into paying thousands of dollars for unnecessary and potentially damaging immigration applications. Despite the fact that this is a significant and common problem, there has not been a focused legal effort on combating immigration services fraud in Pennsylvania. This gap in legal services, coupled with additional barriers that low-income immigrants face, including fear of law enforcement and government agencies, little education, and a lack of English skills, has resulted in victims being unable to access to our justice system.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Vanessa has:
• Educated nearly 10,000 consumers and service providers about immigration services fraud.
• Provided brief advice and referral, limited representation, or full representation to over 400 consumers.
• Successfully worked with Philadelphia city council to draft and pass an ordinance that creates safeguards for consumers by regulating non-attorney businesses that offer immigration related services.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Vanessa plans to:
• Continue to provide legal representation to victims of immigration services fraud.
• Push for meaningful enforcement of Philadelphia’s ordinance to protect consumers from non-attorney businesses that offer immigration related services.
• Build upon collaboration with community organizations to maximize outreach efforts to consumers across Pennsylvania.

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