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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

"I.C.E." Impostors Scam Undocumented Immigrants

Mariano Avila

Undocumented Michigan residents have been receiving scam calls from people posing as Immigration officials demanding money. 

[Ring, ring]

It sounds legit:

“You’ve reached the Superior Court of California County of Riverside...”

It’s unclear how, but the callers find numbers for undocumented immigrants and tell them that if they don’t pay $400 plus  for ESL classes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, or ICE, will deport them. Which is what happened to one undocumented Michigander who immediately called his lawyer, Pamela Davies.

“Right away I knew it had to be a scam.”

Davies is an attorney with Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said she called the number her client gave her and that the message sounded legitimate, until a man calling himself Brian Mendez answered.

“The receiver started talking, it was in pure Spanish, okay. And in my experience with USCIS nobody answers you in Spanish.”

We reached out to US Citizenship and Immigration Services and they confirmed that the call was a scam. Here’s Marilu Cabrera, spokeswoman for USCIS.

“Any time you see an email directly to someone saying ‘pay this and avoid getting deported, or pay this and you will become a citizen automatically, or you can go to the front of the line if you pay such and such amount. It’ really not true.”

We also called ICE. In an email they said the call was “100% a scam.” They said that if anyone thinks an impostor contacted them , they should report it to local law enforcement or call ICE’s tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

Oh and when we called the scam numbers, got the message, chose first English then Spanish, and then we got this:

[ring, ring, busy tone]

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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