The Department of Justice announced that Indiana immigration lawyer Joel Paul pleaded guilty to extensive fraud in his U-visa practice Thursday.
Paul, 45, of Fishers, Indiana, pleaded guilty to “one count each of mail fraud, immigration document fraud, and aggravated identity theft,” according to a DOJ press release. Sentencing will take place early next year.
U-visas are a special humanitarian program available to victims of certain serious crimes who offer assistance to American law enforcement. Like its companion T-visa program for “human trafficking victims,” U-visas have been widely criticized for going well beyond its original purpose and being easy to defraud. They have offered legal status for over 100,000 aliens and have been promoted by pro-amnesty officials as an end-run around immigration laws.
In Paul’s case, he admits to having made more than 250 fraudulent U-visa claims between 2013-2017, using forged documents from a U.S. Attorney’s Office to show his clients were assisting law enforcement. He then allegedly charged his clients $3,000 a piece to make the application. The plea agreement specifies that the clients — presumably aliens with no other legal status — had no knowledge of Paul’s fraud.
Combating immigration fraud has been a top priority for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Last month, he promised to crack down on such fraud and called on Congress to make changes to the asylum system to cut back on the opportunity for misconduct.
Sessions reiterated that message with reference to Paul’s plea. “Individuals who commit immigration fraud undermine and abuse our generous immigration system—a system that lawfully admits more immigrants than any other country in the world—and put our public safety and national security at risk,” he said in the DOJ statement.
“President Trump promised voters he would return this country to a lawful system of immigration, and this Justice Department is committed to fulfilling that promise by rooting out fraud and abuse. We will not tolerate fraud at any level, and will bring those who engage in fraud to justice,” he said.