John came to the U.S. seeking alyssum, fleeing poverty in the Dominican Republic. When he arrived at the border, he crossed the river with around ten other Dominicans. They had spent around a month in trains, busses, and old motels until they finally reached the border. El Coyote left them a few steps from the river; he explained to them how not to drown as they swam to the U.S.
Sweaty, hungry, and with pees on his pants, John made it to the U.S. side of the border, where he was taken by border patrol. He was admitted to the U.S. as a parolee for asylum. A few hours later, an immigrant non-profit organization in Texas, whose name John doesn’t fully recall, gave him food and new clothes. They asked where he’d want to go. He said N.J., where he had a cousin. John also had a brother in Houston, Texas, but he was afraid to tell him that against his candid advice to not come to the U.S. by the border, he had come over. He was afraid of what his brother would say or perhaps think of him. After all, he was his letter brother.
And just like that, his journey into the land of free started.
Chasing the American dream, John, 27, got a Job working as a barber in N.J. Back in the Dominican Republic, he was also a barber. The pay wasn’t much, but at least it was enough for him to start saving to hire a lawyer to apply for a green card under asylum.
“I have a son in the Dominican Republic (D.R.). So, I send him money monthly. His mother doesn’t work, and it’s all on me,” John said. “I had barely saved $1,600 to start the paperwork and find me a lawyer, and then this happened,” he added.
After a few months in the U.S., John met his wife through Tinder, an American citizen from Fresco, California, who is of Mexican descent. He soon moved to C.A. with the one thousand and six hundred dollars he had saved. He got married, and soon after, his wife petitioned for him. But she couldn’t file all the paperwork by herself. She was no lawyer. So, they hired La Liga Defensora to file John’s papers with USCIS.
La Liga Defensora, an infamous law firm whose target market is its vast majority is Latinos, with thirteen offices in around six different states, was hired by John and his wife to represent him. Soon after, John calls his cousin in N.J. to tell him the news. Later, he calls his brother, who lives in Houston. By then, the brother had already learned John was living in the U.S. His brother, a U.S. citizen and college-educated professional, googled the company’s name. After a few seconds, the brother explained to John that there was something fishing about that law firm he fired. He listed the red flags in the following order:
1. The company’s google reviews were awful. With less than a 3 out of 5 rating.
2. Plenty of clients or customers (their vast majority Latinos) said in their google reviews that they were defrauded/scammed by the firm.
3. The company’s website is only in Spanish. Even their website’s phone number 1-844-800-5517 is only in Spanish. As if they just want a Latino customer base.
One red flag after another. So, John’s brother, whose name is kept private for now, soon explains to John that in the U.S., one needs to read reviews and research the company before one hires them.
After that conversation, John and his wife ask La Liga Defensora to return them the $1,500 US dollars they had paid to the law firm not even 5 hours ago. The law firm’s front desk secretary told them that they’d return the whole amount by the next business day since no work or paperwork had yet been done. The next day, after checking his bank account, John saw no reimbursement.
He called the law office almost every day for a month. After excuses and more excuses, he was told that after 15 business days, he’d get his money. No reimbursement of his money was given after months of basically “begging for it,” says John.
Feeling defenseless, John and his wife started reading the Google reviews of La Liga Defensora, and in a heartbeat, John then realized that he wasn’t the only one who allegedly got scammed by the firm. There were others. In fact, there were dozens of customers saying the same: that they, too, got scammed by the firm. That the company had taken their money but never filed their green card or citizenship applications with USCIS.
“It hurts. It hurts a lot. They stole my money. I am poor. I don’t have papers yet. Now, what do I do? I can’t find a new lawyer because I can’t afford it,” says John, holding his wife’s hands as she nods in a glance painted with sadness and disbelief.
“How can that happen in America?” she says, almost tearing. “How can they get away with that?” she adds.
The Continent Post called La Liga Defensora to obtain comments for his article but couldn’t reach anyone over the phone.
This story is developing, and the Continent Post will continue in the near future.