In the wake of comprehensive immigration reform and the prospect of new opportunities for foreign nationals to qualify for U.S. permanent residence (green cards), the immigrant community has begun to combat “notarios.”
Notarios are individuals who are posing as immigration attorneys, immigration experts, or immigration consultants. In this position, the notario charges the foreign national often very, very high rates to prepare applications for immigration benefits and either does not perform the promised service or, even worse, provides ineffective service that actually hurts or weakens the foreign national’s immigration opportunities. In fact, some notarios damage cases so badly that the foreign nationals ends up incarcerated or deported, often separating U.S. citizens from their foreign family members.
At the present time, there is not a federal law in place that criminalizes the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Because of this, immigration advocate groups have found it difficult to prosecute notarios or obtain redress or other forms of compensation for the immigrants that have been adversely affect by the notario’s action (or inaction) with their case.
Preventing Notario Fraud
Possibly in part due to the growing notario problem, this issue has finally come under the radar of Congress, and Illinois Congressman Bill Foster has recently introduced legislation aimed at combating and preventing notario fraud. Specifically, Congressman Foster’s bill would establish a large fine and up to 15 years in prison for any person found guilty of providing fraudulent immigration legal services. Additionally, Congressman Foster’s legislation permits deported foreign nationals (whose deportations were the result of mistreatment or mismanagement of their case by notarios) to re-file their cases in certain circumstances.
Immigration advocates greatly support the bill, stating that the passage of a law that specifically targets notarios would be highly effective in stopping these non-lawyers (or simply bad lawyers) from taking advantage of foreign nationals and jeopardizing or ruining their chances of obtaining U.S. permanent residence.
The Present Measures Against Notario Fraud
Even though there is not currently a law aimed at combating notario fraud, there does exist a national computer database that allows the states to stay updated on individuals who have been found to be notarios. Additionally, some states hire consumer protection lawyers to prosecute notarios on behalf of the foreign nationals who have been harmed by their actions.
Along with this database, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began keeping track of notario complaints back in 2006. In subsequent years, the FTC found that there was a marked increase in the amount of notario cases that were reported each year. However, the FTC tracking does not completely reflect the true scope of the notario fraud going on in the United States as many victims do not report their cases for fear of the immigration consequences of reporting their case to the police.
Notarios are greatly damaging the cases of thousands of foreign nationals, many of whom would likely have a good chance of staying in the U.S. and obtaining legal status if only their cases were handled correctly by a competent attorney. Due to the injustice perpetrated by notarios, it is very important that Congressman Foster’s bill passes and becomes law in order to provide notario victims with greater protection. Check back with our blog regularly to follow the most recent immigration news and developments.
Additional Blog Posts
Immigration Judges Request Separation from the Department of Justice, ImmigRantings, August 19, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013