There is no entity named the "National Association to Help Individual Citizens Hoodwinked by Individual Aliens" (NAHICHIA), and there probably will never be one, but we at the Center often hear from the injured citizens hurt by individual aliens and, sadly, there is usually little that we can do to help.
The pattern goes something like this (to grossly oversimplify):
- Citizen meets and trusts alien;
- Alien betrays, hoodwinks, or steals from citizen;
- Citizen goes to the government, but after delays, nothing happens;
- Citizen hires lawyer to rectify things;
- Justice is not achieved and citizen incurs heavy legal fees; and
- Alien wins in the end.
There are, obviously, situations in which individual citizens exploit individual aliens, but we rarely hear about them.
The cases we encounter tend to be several years old, and often involve an older citizen who has, foolishly it turns out, married a younger, more assertive alien, who (in many cases) charges the citizen with spousal abuse, and gets a green card for her efforts.
In another case recently described to us, the citizen told us she ran a house-cleaning service and hired the alien to be one of the housekeepers; the alien then stole supplies from the citizen, and worse, stole clients and set up her own rival business. The citizen was led to believe that the alien was here legally, but now knows she had been using a stolen Social Security number and phony immigration credentials. The citizen hired a $300-an-hour lawyer in an effort to regain her losses, but the alien (assisted by pro bono lawyers of her own) threw up effective barriers to justice and the citizen now faces bankruptcy.
Why does this pattern keep repeating itself? Who, in addition to the erring alien, is at fault? And what should be done about it?
Why Does This Happen? These events spring from two sets of imbalances: First, there is a much larger demand for legal presence than our immigration system (or any system) can handle; some of those who want to enter use illicit means to obtain a presence here. Second, usually the crooked alien has much more at stake than the overly trusting citizen and in many cases the alien is more skilled, and more motivated, shall we say, than the citizen.
Who is to Blame? Much of the system is tilted toward what it regards as the underdog, which I find appropriate generally, but this tilt also extends (often excessively in these cases) to the alien or the woman, and certainly toward the alien woman. NAHICHIA does not exist, but there are many entities that help aliens and women. The DHS administration of its duties under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) rarely helps the citizen in the alleged abuse cases.
Further, the Department of Homeland Security has priorities; it, understandably, prefers devoting scarce resources to inexpensive mass enforcement actions rather than to solving individual, labor-intensive he-said-she-said problems. When it comes to deportations, it is both easier and more appropriate to evict people who are already convicted of something, than to intervene in what looks like a civil dispute.
Solutions? The government's position, when an alien (usually a woman) claims that the new citizen spouse has abused her, tilts heavily toward the woman when it administers VAWA, as my colleague, Dan Cadman, has reported in the past. Of course that tilt should be corrected and more resources should be found for interior enforcement of the immigration law.
As to what the individual citizen should do in these situations, the specific remedies relate to the specific problem, but I have come to the general conclusion that a policy of cutting one's losses is the sensible approach.
I deeply regret the kind of advice that I gave the citizen with a housecleaning business; I do not want to say:
Forget about right and wrong; concentrate on costs and benefits; cut your losses, if the government will not do what it should about the cheating alien, don't waste your money, and stress your mental health, by privately doing what the government should be doing.
I do not like to say it, but I do.
I hate giving that advice, but I have seen too many citizens with these problems, all tangled up in the understandable desire to seek justice; all deeply frustrated, and often badly hurt financially.
They should, for their own good, accept the fact that they have been had, and cannot do much about it. They should simply try to get on with their lives.