Business Owners Face Some Stiff Fines

February 27, 2008 7:34:12 PM PST
Several local businesses that specialize in helping immigrants are being targeted Wednesday by the Fresno County District Attorney's office.The District Attorney said in court documents she is trying to protect the public from fraud and deception.

Several local businesses are now facing large penalties for helping immigrants complete government documents.

Those businesses say they're providing a crucial service.

In Fresno's Historic China Town Regina Vilanova operates her own business.

She said she charges Spanish speaking immigrants a few dollars to download government documents.

Vilanova: "My responsibility is just to fill out those forms, and give it to them."

In court documents the District Attorney wants Vilanova to stop.

She's accused of violating government codes by acting like an immigration consultant and providing legal services.

Vilanova: "No, no. I never told that. I always told them I'm not an attorney."

The DA defines an immigration consultant as a business person who "gives non-legal assistance or advice on an immigration matter."

That person must post a 50-thounsand dollar bond with the state.

Vilanova said she didn't know about those requirements.

Vilanova: "I not even know who is doing this to me. Because my main concern is help the people who don't understand anything."

Nearby Vilanova, the DA also targeted Sierra Business Services.

The owner declined an interview but said they're working to meet requirements.

Local immigrants say these services are extremely important.

Juan Lepe: "Hay, eso."

Juan Lepe said some immigrants rely on people like Vilanova, because they can't read English.

He worries if these places shut down, Then immigrants could be helpless trying to meet government requirements.

The DA wants a judge to fine the businesses more than 100-thousand dollars which could shut one of them down.

We contacted the District Attorney to learn more about their efforts.

But a spokesperson did not return our phone call.


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