Noncitizens seeking to make sense of US immigration systems encounter a labyrinth of information and deception. In a national study of scams (2011-2014) targeting noncitizens seeking immigration legal services, I use administrative and secondary data sources to analyze the correlates of immigration scam complaints submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). I find welcoming counties have more immigration scam complaints, and counties with exclusionary contexts tend to have less complaints. The results do not suggest scams are more prevalent in welcoming contexts because the actual number of scams is unknown. Instead, we can conclude noncitizens tend to come forward to report immigration scams in welcoming contexts of reception, even after accounting for exclusionary policies. A robust safety net proved the most reliable predictor of immigration scams reported to the FTC. Immigration attorneys, legal aid services, and language access were also positively associated with the number of FTC scam reports. Taken together, the results suggest immigrant-serving capacity and access to key services support noncitizens who report immigration scams while hostility toward immigrants may deter them from exercising those same rights.
Juan Manuel Pedroza is Assistant Professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I study the changing landscape of immigration in the United States. Over the past decade, I have examined the vast inequalities of immigrants' access to justice, the social safety net, and poverty. My research examines how and where deportation and enforcement initiatives exacerbate these inequalities and leave imprints in our local communities.