Dreamers: Fear of Unscrupulous Notarios and Immigration Consultant Fraud On the Rise
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Dreamers: Fear of Unscrupulous Notarios and Immigration Consultant Fraud On the Rise

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August 11, 2012, 4:08 pm
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No sooner was Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals announced when numerous non-lawyer businesses began to advertise the "Dream Act."

The Problems with Notarios and Immigration Consultants - These days, just the words "Notario" or "immigration consultant, aroused fear in immigrant communities. Thousands of immigrants have experienced the troubles that ensue Notario "assistance" in legal matters.

When it comes to filing for  immigration benefits under Obama's Dream Act it would seem that everyone would hire an immigration lawyer or a BIA-recognized organization  to process their application, but that is not what always happens.  Throughout the country there is a teeming "quasi" underground business of immigration forms preparation.  In may instances, these business call themselves immigration consultants or Notario Publicos, and some even hide under the guise of travel agents and translations services, and other such businesses.  They all charge less than licensed  lawyer, but they are unable to provide the service of a true immigration lawyer.

The Department of Homeland security as well as many other state governments are preoccupied in the preventing the inevitable mess that results when these people try to complete immigration forms. Recently New York, Governor Cuomo  announced that New York State will make a concerted effort to protect its residents from immigration fraudsters who are expected to emerge with the new Dreamers Deferred Action program. 

Immigration Consultants run rampant hroughout the immigrant community. New immigrants get confused and believe that an American Notary has the same power and place in our society as that of a Notario in their country.  The immigrant believing that a Notario is the same as a licensed lawyer, hires the Notario and in many cases, find themselves in legal  "hot water." Although some are honest, hardworking and limit their work to forms preparation without to resorting to providing immigration advice or making believe that they are licensed Immigration Lawyers or have a special connection inside the immigration department. Some of the consultants are actually former employees of the Immigration Service or were U.S. consular employees.  Others resort to fraud in establishing qualification for an applicant.

As there is NO LICENSE for immigration consultants and NO EXAMINATION needed, you can imagine the inconsistency in the quality of their work.  Consultants, unlike a licensed Immigration Lawyer are not subject to discipline by the Bar Association and normally are difficult to locate when their work product is found defective or fraudulent. One thing for sure, immigration consultants are not permitted to appear at an immigration hearing to represent a client.  Not only can they not appear in front of an immigration examiner, they are not permitted to represent anyone in Immigration Court. And there is no guarantee that the Notario completes the immigration forms properly. Improper forms preparation may cause needless complications and possible deportation action. 

To make a complaint against an Immigration Consultant click here


Travel Agencies and Translation services. 
There are some travel agencies and Translation services that go well beyond their corporate charter.  They engage in similar activities, that the Notario Publico and the Immigration Consultants but hide their activities by advertising on their windows, Travel Agency or Translation Services when they are actually practicing law without a license.  In most every case, these agencies do little more that type up the immigration forms,not knowing what the immigration service in truly asking in each question. In many cases, their clients do not get the "Green Card" they believed was forthcoming, instead they receive a "Notice to Appear" for a deportation hearing in Immigration Court.

How to Select a licensed Immigration Lawyer.  There are good reasons to hire a licensed Immigration Lawyer  to handle your case. If you run into any problem during  the process, you will  need legal assistance to resolve it. If your immigration situation is complicated, there is even a greater reason to hire a licensed  immigration lawyer.  If you're going to hire an immigration lawyer, you need to do your research. A good lawyer will be worth every penny you pay him, but  a poor one may may wind up  adding  to your problems and costing a lot more in the long run.

Here are some tips to help you during your search.

    •    Get references. Ask friends, family, or colleagues if they know any good immigration lawyers.People are quick to recommend a good lawyer and even quicker to badmouth  a bad  one. Be careful however, as no two cases are alike, so if your friend had a very simple case, it does not mean that the lawyer has experience with a complication one. Also try to find out about the lawyers personality.  Some lawyers have good beside manners, while others are gruff and demeaning.  You have to find a lawyer that fits well with your personality. Make sure the lawyer is a member of  AILA. Search for a lawyer on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website. AILA is a  primary  association of immigration lawyers and attorneys, so you can be reasonably sure that  you're speaking to  someone who understands immigration law and policies. While membership in AILA is not a mandatory to practice immigration law, membership can be a good indication of a lawyer's level of commitment to the practice.

    •    Find articles written by the immigration lawyer or written about him/her.  Search the internet for articles written about this immigration  lawyer.  Make sure these articles are favorable.  Look for articles this immigration  lawyer has written and read them. In this way you will find out how the lawyer thinks and the depth of his knowledge.

    •    Make a Short short list of  immigration lawyers in your area. Interview the  lawyers to find one who matches your needs. Ask  about their experience. Find out if they have worked with your type of case before. Immigration law is a complicated specialty, so you'll want a lawyer who is experienced with your specific type of case.  At the consultation you will be able to determine if the lawyer is understanding,listens to your problems and answer your question clearly. Look for  whatever traits you like to see in your lawyer.  Make sure that the lawyer has many years of experience. 

      •  Compare fee schedules. Some lawyers bill  hourly while others charge a flat fee. Find out  if there are additional costs such as postage, mailing fees or long distance charges. In many cases immigration work can be estimated fairly accurately. Others are quite difficult to predict. An immigration  lawyer is more likely to charge an hourly rate for a deportation case, and a flat fee for family related matters.

    •    Verify credentials. When you believe that you've found a lawyer you feel comfortable with,  you should find out if the lawyer is licensed and not under disciplinary action.  This link will help you do this.

    •    Get a Retainer.  You should always receive a retainer from the lawyer, which will clearly state the legal fees and other charges and the manner of payment.

    •    Make sure the person in running the office is a lawyer. Notaries, consultants, or others who are not licensed as a lawyer at times pretend to be a licensed  immigration lawyer.  Sometimes they are lawyers, but from another country, sometimes they are American lawyers that have lost the license. Look for the lawyer's license on the wall. Some licensed lawyers may not display their certificates, so ask if the person is a lawyer. Look at the business card from the office. Make sure it says that the person is a lawyer or attorney, not an immigration consultant or Notario Publico.

If you decide not to use a lawyer for forms prreparation, you may consider applying through the web with a lawyer designed form processing service such as idreamact.com.

Author: Moises Apsan
Immigration attorney with over 30 years of experience. Past president Federal Bar Association NJ Chapter 1997-2002. Offices in Astoria, NY, Newark, NJ. Tel: 877-873-8510 http://www.apsanlaw.com
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