Dramatizing immigration-services fraud

“I can help you qualify for a Green Card under the 10 year law!  … Look at all the people I work with [gesturing to the long line in the waiting room] — it’s because I know what I am doing!”

Those are lines from one of the skits developed by students in the Center’s Social Justice Lawyering Clinic — Michael Ahlert, Melissa Castillo, and Anika Forrest – who were looking for a way to educate immigrant communities about the widespread problem of legal services fraud. The students worked with Friends of Farmworkers, a Philly non-profit that has developed a special project on “Stopping Notario Fraud and the Unauthorized Practice of Law.”

“We wanted to do community outreach in some way that was engaging and different from the traditional lecture or PowerPoint,” Anika stated. And they did: the skits (in English and Spanish) are entertaining but also make serious points – only attorneys can give legal advice, don’t sign blank forms, ask for translation when you need it, and beware of promises that are too good to be true. The students performed the skits at the Northeast Regional Library, to audiences of ESL students from various countries (some of whom also joined in as actors).

“It was valuable to have a chance to think about how you actually empower communities,” Anika reflects. “We often assume that, once a law [such as the law prohibiting unauthorized practice of law] has been passed, the problem’s over.  But it’s important to engage communities in the implementation process.”  The Philadelphia School District and other immigrant-services organizations have asked for copies of the skits for use in their own training programs.