Economy in the United States is a bad shape. Most of us know it because our wallets appear to be getting thinner. We are also tired of hearing how various politicians and policy makers will make things better for us when so many are losing their jobs every day. This reality is especially hard on the immigrants and noncitizens. However, difficult economic times should never be the reason for noncitizens to forgo seeking legal advice from competent immigration attorneys and hire "notarios" or "immigration consultants" instead. Why? Let me explain.
The law is very clear that it is illegal for "public notaries," non-attorneys, or attorneys not properly licensed in the United States to provide legal advice. These individuals are forbidden from not only giving legal advice, but also filling out forms. The same prohibition also applies to foreign lawyers who are not recognized as attorneys in the United States unless they become licensed and authorized to practice law in one of the 50 U.S. jurisdictions.
Immigration consultants and notarios are like scam artists. They prey on the naïve non-immigrants and frequently make promises and assurances, which rarely can be kept. They lure the noncitizens by charging lower fees and promising fast results. Once the noncitizens sign up, they learn quickly that more fees and charges await them, as consultants will frequently charge additional fees for very simple tasks.
Most immigration consultants do not know or understand the law. They are not interested in explaining to their clients how the promised benefits will be obtained and informing of the consequences that follow filing of certain applications with the government. As a result, countless numbers of noncitizens have suffered harm and damages from the actions of unscrupulous consultants, as their dreams of remaining in the United States were destroyed, sometime forever. Sadly, many of those noncitizens never saw the problems coming and were caught completely off guard when they faced denials or were ordered sent back to their native countries. In the end, those with some possibilities of remaining in the United States ended up spending thousands of dollars trying to save their immigration cases, significantly beyond the amount they would have paid if they hired an immigration attorney in the first place.
There are many advantages of having an immigration attorney handle your immigration case. Only properly licensed U.S. attorneys are permitted to help noncitizens in their immigration matters. Attorneys not only have the proper training and education, but also are charged with the responsibility of continuing their education and keeping abreast with the ever changing laws and regulations. Attorneys also have resources and personal access to government officials that notarios or consultants do not. If any problems arise, it is much easier for an attorney to correct them than it would be for an immigration consultant.
Most importantly, lawyers are required to abide by ethical rules and standards. If they don't, they can lose their ability to practice law. No such rules apply to consultants and notarios. They rarely have to answer for their mistakes and are not held accountable. In fact, according a recent decision by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ineffective assistance rendered by non-attorney was not a sufficient reason to overturn a prior order of removal entered by an Immigration Judge. Accordingly, many notarios feel untouchable and continue to take advantage of their clients by giving incorrect information and advice.
Once the problems start, notarios and immigration consultants disappear or are of no further assistance and the noncitizens end up dealing with adverse consequences on their own. This is especially the case when the applications filed on their behalf were frivolous or they were never eligible for the requested immigration benefit in the first place. As a result, some may find themselves in removal proceedings before the Immigration Judge. If they are not able to file any applications in court, which will allow them to stay in the United States, these people will be ordered to return to their native countries.
Others may deal with serious problems and allegations of fraud and misrepresentation because notarios "created" fake documents in their cases or applied for benefits based on false pretenses. Our office encountered a number of people for whom notarios filed green card applications based on fictitious marriages to United States citizens. Their applications were often accompanied by fake marriage certificates and other documents. These people are now in a very serious predicament, as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services consider application fraud as a very serious immigration violation. Consequences of being found guilty of fraud upon the government can be very harsh. They can include outright denials of the applications, requests for waivers or pardons that are rarely granted, transfers of cases to immigration courts, and permanent prohibition on being able to receive any immigration benefits in the future. This last penalty, the permanent bar of future benefits, is especially applicable to those who have been accused of committing marriage fraud. Permanent bar means no ability to remain and/or enter into the United States legally.
In response to the widespread fraud perpetrated by notarios and immigration consultants, there have been many efforts made to pass laws and regulations holding them accountable for their illegal actions. In California, victims of notarios and immigration consultants can contact the Office of Attorney General to file a complaint. In fact, there is an entire web page dedicated to matters involving immigration consultants. The address for the website is http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general/immigration_consultants.php.
Based on the above information, legal and illegal immigrants alike should be cautioned to think twice before they hire a notario or immigration consultant to represent them in immigration matters. The money will be far better spent on paying for an experienced and reliable immigration attorney. This remains true even in this difficult economic time. Rather than buying ugly holiday sweaters or trinkets for Christmas that will never be used, noncitizens should consider hiring a competent attorney instead. This investment may turn out to be the best money they have ever spent and can prevent their removal from the United States. Our experienced attorneys will be glad to help. Our offices are located in Cerritos, Boise, Riverside, and Irvine. Please call if you have any questions regarding your or somebody's immigration problems.