Citizenship test: Manager defends immigration center - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Citizenship test: Manager defends immigration center

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UPDATE, FRI 10 AM: The owner of a West Palm Beach business, accused of taking advantage of immigrants, is answering some tough questions.

Adira Montano told us she came to the Aladdin Immigration Service Center to fill out an application form for U.S. citizenship. She says the center charged her $460 to fill out the English-only application. But, she claims, the center never told her the actual citizenship test itself would only be in English, a language she still doesn't speak.

Fox 29 asked the manager, Terrie Vanover, of the Aladdin center why.

Reporter: "Do you feel that you're doing service?"

Vanover: "Absolutely."

Reporter: "You don't feel you're doing anything bad?"

Vanover: "Oh, my gosh, no. And our girls that work here, they've encouraged me to raise the prices."

Still, the city of West Palm Beach says this is a problem not just confined to the Aladdin Center. They say there are many other immigration centers in town that also do not tell customers the test is only in English.

PREVIOUSLY: Their dreams are slipping away, and they're out hundreds of dollars. It's the promises made to people trying to become legal citizens. Some of the most vulnerable are being targeted.

By day, she cleans homes. By night, she's learning English trying to pass her citizenship test. "My English is better with help," says Adira Montano.

But her English isn't perfect. So, she says, she came to the local immigration service center and paid them $460 to help her fill out an application form for the citizenship test.

Why did she use that service? She needed help filling in information correctly. 

She has to take the immigration test by herself and in English. The problem is the center never told her the test itself was only in English.

Reporter asks: "Do you know that the test is in English and not Spanish? Did they tell you that?"

She responds: "No."

Citizenship teacher Jimi Morgan Pedigo says: "To me, they're stealing people's money."

The citizenship teacher says at least half of her students come to her confused wondering why the test was only in English - wondering why they were out hundreds of dollars.

"The tragic thing for me, at least, is many of them speak the language very fluently of the people they're dealing with. And so the immigrant trusts them," Pedigo states.

The Vicers House condemns the services saying immigration centers take advantage of immigrants - charging them $100, up to $460.

Fox 29 wanted answers, so we went to the center where Adira says she went. Remember, she told us they never explained to her the test was only in English. 

Reporter: "Do you address a concern like that?"

Aladdin center employee: "We would never tell someone they have to fill out a form in English. 

Reporter: "So she's lying? She's making it up?"

Employee: "We're not making any statements at all." 

Reporter: "Isn't it your job to help people to fill out the immigration forms and help them pass?"

Employee: "I don't want to answer these kinds of questions."

But, then, they admitted this: "She might have misunderstood."

Reporter: "She can only speak Spanish. How did she misunderstand that?"

Employee: "Ma'am, you can come back at a different time."

Now, we tried several times to get in touch with a manager as the center workers suggested, but, so far, we have not heard back.

In fairness, the city says it's not just the center we went to that they have problems with. They say there are dozens of centers that do the same thing everyday.

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