TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO- In order to gain access to the United States, Cuban and Venezuelan citizens are losing their life savings to fraudulent asylum-travel companies, according to a recent NBC News report.
Since President Joe Biden launched a parole program that accepts a limited number of migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the asylum travel industry has become rife with fraud. Each year, the program allows the admission of 30,000 individuals from each of the designated countries, giving them the right to work for two years in the country.
Asylum seekers require a U.S.-based sponsor under the law, and fake companies take advantage of this requirement and offer fraudulent packages online to take advantage of vulnerable individuals.
Among the victims was a young Cuban doctor who was offered a package on Facebook in hopes of finding a sponsor in the United States. In the end, she lost thousands after transferring $1,800 to the sponsor, who disappeared after the transaction.
“Many people I’ve contacted since then ask for money in advance. When I tell them, I won’t pay ahead of time, they immediately block me,” the young doctor told NBC News, adding that others received fake travel documents after paying for the service.
“Most of them say they have relatives in Cuba that will refund the money if anything goes wrong, but they’re all lies.“
A hefty fee is charged for the packages, which include maps, mobilization plans, and purported sponsors. These packages are even advertised on international websites and social media platforms.
Miami immigration attorney John de la Vega said, “they’re preying on people who are desperate and vulnerable that are trying to get to the United States.”
“I’ve heard of people who paid others for this type of service and they just disappear.”
The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service claims it is working to alert prospective asylum seekers from overseas about online fraudsters seeking money. Sadly, many immigrants seeking assistance are unaware of the U.S. government’s website and resources and fall victim to scams.