Many immigrants, documented or undocumented, are in vulnerable positions when trying to come to the United States. Some are too poor for an attorney, but seek other ways to get help to stay legally. It is this situation that is ripe for exploitation by scam artists who call themselves notarios. It is important, if you are seeking immigration help, to not fall for their tricks, and to only pay or give information to people who have the authority to help you.
What Are Notarios?
While in Europe and Latin America the term “notary public” applies to a person who is qualified to represent individuals before a government, that is not the meaning of the term in the United States. Notarios use that linguistic confusion to prey upon immigrants who need help. They are people who lack any kind of legal authority in the U.S., but hold themselves out as “immigration consultants” or “visa consultants” in order to project an air of authority. They are, not to put too fine a face on it, con men who make a living preying on desperate immigrants. Sometimes, their lies can have long-term consequences, including damaging a potential immigrant’s prospects for genuine applications to be approved.
As immigration claims to the United States have risen over roughly the past 15 years—in 2008 the total immigrant population (in any status, documented or undocumented) was approximately 38 million—so has the number of notarios. Many immigrants, especially the poor, are unable to afford the steep filing fees for certain types of visa applications, and thus are receptive to anyone saying they can help for a lower price. Notarios also tend to advertise in 'ethnic’ media—newspapers not in English, or on websites targeted at a specific community—to engender trust in them. After the notario is given money and personal information, they will often stall their “client” until it is no longer possible, at which time they either make up an excuse as to why the petition (often never even filed) failed, or they simply vanish.
There is a prevailing opinion among many Americans that immigrants fleeced by notario con men may be getting what they deserve. After all, the immigrant was looking for a shortcut, a way to pay less in fees, or a way to wait less time. However, it is important to remember the following:
The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 8, Section 292.1 states clearly that only licensed attorneys and 'accredited representatives’ may practice immigration law. An accredited representative is not an attorney, but is an educated person on immigration law. A good example would be an employee of an immigration non-profit like the National Immigrant Justice Center. Real immigration attorneys and non-profits have begun to try and spread more information about notario fraud, hoping to educate the public, but there are so many now that it is an uphill battle.
Our Attorneys Will Help You
If you need real immigration help, Mevorah Law Offices LLC can be there. We will do our best for you. Contact our DuPage County immigration attorneys today for a free consultation.
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