LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, speaking Wednesday in Los Angeles, announced an increased effort to protect consumers from unscrupulous immigration consultants that do not follow state law.

“Heightened anxieties due to unpredictable federal immigration policy is causing unease among California’s immigrant communities, leading many to seek help from immigration consultants,” Padilla said. “We want to inform consumers of their rights, while making sure immigration consultants understand and adhere to California law,” he said.

“With that goal, I am joining with immigrant rights organizations and the California Department of Justice to provide clear and concise information to those who provide and to those who seek services.”

The move comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 seeking to expand federal efforts on deporting immigrants in the country illegally.

Padilla directed the Secretary of State’s Business Programs Division to send letters to the 1,016 active immigration consultants registered in the state and inform them of their legal obligations.

Immigration consultants cannot provide legal advice, promise or guarantee results, charge for referrals to lawyers or other authorized immigration services providers, nor advise clients which forms to use.

“The current anti-immigrant political climate makes immigration services fraud more likely, as immigrants seek information and assistance and scam artists prey on their vulnerability,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

“Unscrupulous immigration consultants prey on this vulnerable population across the state, stealing their hard-earned money and often jeopardizing their chances of obtaining viable forms of immigration relief,” he said. “My team will continue to work collaboratively with the secretary of state, advocacy organizations and law enforcement to prosecute these consultants and ensure they are held accountable.”

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said it’s “always important to ensure vulnerable communities are not taken advantage of, especially during times of anxiety.”

“We applaud Secretary Padilla’s efforts to protect our communities from unscrupulous `immigration consultants’ who prey, cheat and harm them,” she said.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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