On March 2015, Congressmen Bill Foster (D-Illinois) and Ted Deutch (D-Florida) introduced a bill that could act as a legal reprimand to fraudulent legal advisors who take advantage of immigrants applying for legal status in America. These fraudulent and dishonest immigration consultants are often known as “notarios.” Immigration consultants, notaries public, and notarios cannot represent you in the immigration process. These notaries act under the guise of legitimate immigration attorneys and ultimately end up preying on immigrants’ economic resources as well as making them vulnerable to undeserved deportation.
As Congressman Foster, who co-authored the bill, explained, “not only do ‘notarios’ exploit immigrants for money, but their false services can, and many times have, resulted in well-meaning immigrants being deported because they didn’t receive accurate information on the immigration process. We must do more to stop these predators who are exploiting immigrants attempting to play by the rules.”
Notarios face jail time under new law
If passed, this bill will allow courts to impose significant jail time on these shady individuals. If a notario is found to have deliberately misled an immigrant into thinking he or she is a legitimate attorney who specializes in immigration law, the notario will face up to 15 years imprisonment. Moreover, if a legal advisor executes any sort of deceitful actions with regards to immigration services, he can face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Furthermore, sponsors hope that this bill will motivate the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice to formulate a system that would allow the victims of this fraudulent legal practice to have the opportunity to resubmit their immigration applications, so their quest for legal status would not be completely demolished because of this deception.
The recent arrest of Micallela Aguilera Coleman, from the the Los Angeles County in response to accusations of fraudulent behavior in regards to immigration law, demonstrates the real dangers of such scams. Coleman is accused of beguiling A.J. Aguirre by giving unwise counsel, leaving Aguirre unrepresented at a vital immigration appointment, as well as failing to file any proper paperwork at immigration agencies. This fraud was compounded by Coleman taking $3,000 from the Aguirre family.
How Notaries behave
The manner that notarios or “immigration consultants” dupe immigrants is primarily through the use of false advertisement and the drawing up of counterfeit legal contracts. Facilitating the false advertisement, the term “notario” was employed by U.S.notaries public in the past, which can lead to confusion from Spanish-speaking immigrants. Despite its derogatory status in American legal circles, the term “notario” in some Latin American countries literally translates to “lawyer.” “Notario” and “Notario public” in current law are two terms that are barred from advertisements by notaries public due to the terms’ confusing English-Spanish lexicon placement.
In addition to the federal ban on “notarios,” a bill was passed in Nevada that could potentially help prevent of immigrants being duped by advertisements with the term “licenciado,” a commonly mistaken term for the Spanish lawyer. The Nevada law bans “licenciado” from legal advertisements.
However, this type of fraud is not normally exposed until after payment has been exchanged and pseudo-contracts written up. This is why a primary concern for those fighting notario fraud is to educate the public and offer them the tools to distinguish a notario from a legitimate immigration lawyer.
Combating notarie problems
In direct response to these shady legal practices, organizations such as Stopnotariofraud.org and the American Bar Association’s Fight Notario Fraud project have been founded with the intent of educating the public and reducing the risk of people falling into the traps of these legal fakes.
These organizations’ chief goals revolve around the sharing of valid information and providing immigrants with strategies on how to identify fraudsters and the appropriate actions that they should take regarding suspected notarios.
The American Bar Association is focusing on three things in their endeavor to put an end to these fraudulent practices, including:
- sharing of information to attorneys and the public at large on effective techniques to put to use against potential notarios;
- providing a reservoir of suitable forms that can be used when reporting or forming a case against a notario; and
- supplying a cadre of appropriate attorneys who are interested in representing the victims of this kind of fraud. For a full representation of the American Bar Associations appraisal of this legal situation, be sure to check out their website,
How Can You Tell a Notario From a Genuine Immigration Legal Specialist?
To prevent future victims, here are some valuable tips on how best to spot these frauds. This advice includes the following:
- Ask to see their law license. If you ask and they respond evasively, then you
should definitely be suspicious.
- If they are advertising for tax and insurance cases as well as immigration, then
they may be a notario; promoting the fact that they can help with tax and document preparation does not present an image of a genuine immigration legal specialist.
Immigrants looking for legitimate advice on immigration and help with the application process should thoroughly research their options. Never enter into a professional partnership that involves exchange of funds with a legal specialist that you do not trust or who behaves in any way suspiciously.
Take heed of the advice that has been offered throughout this article. Notarios are looking out for themselves – their aims and needs are mercenary, and the consequences to your life will not factor into their behavior or possibly even their consciousness. Be cautious and embrace an extremely vigilant outlook when it comes to legal matters. It is better to be fastidious than careless, as carelessness can lead to loss of economic resources and cause permanent damage to your sought-after citizenship.
Nationwide there are a large number of legitimate immigration lawyers. Locally in Pleasanton, genuine immigration lawyers are available to provide legitimate legal advice, including the Law Office of Spojmie Nasiri.
Do you have an urgent immigration concern? The Law Office of Spojmie Nasiri is a full-service immigration law firm with extensive experience in immigration law. Book a confidential consultation with one of our immigration lawyers, and we’ll provide you with in-depth and updated legal advice you deserve.