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The Revolt Against Notarios and UPL Fraud

With multiple news reports regarding prosecutorial discretion and deferred action for DREAMers, the immigrant community and professional service providers are abuzz.  Although there are strong advisories from DHS to be patient and wait for official guidance, misinformation can still rear its ugly head and confuse the most vulnerable in our communities.

Nearly every organization, led by efforts from DHS, has cautioned immigrants about the threats from unscrupulous individuals offering false hope and assistance to immigrants. While we’ve discussed the issue of notarios in the past, it’s worth reiterating here.  The only individuals legally permitted to provide legal advice about immigration matters to immigrants are licensed attorneys or individuals who have been authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  Individuals who neither fall into one of those groups are otherwise known as “notarios” have are engaging in the unauthorized practice of (immigration) law (UPL).  Although it’s easy to depict notarios as avaricious monsters with no scruples who only targets Spanish speaking communities, plenty of well-meaning individuals offer immigration “consultations” for a fee to various ethnic communities (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Russian, Spanish, etc.) without realizing they are in fact breaking various civil and/or criminal laws.

Notarios come in all ethnicities and ultimately leave a negative impact on community members, friends and family.

  • Notarios or Immigration “Consultants” provide inaccurate information to our community
  • Licensed practitioners or BIA representatives have to remediate immigration matters that have been negatively impacted because of the involvement of notarios
  • Government agencies devote resources to fight fraud as a result of notario involvement
  • Notario activities destroy the lives of immigrants and their families in the United States

Fortunately, many organizations understand the critical importance of conveying up-to-date, accurate information so that immigrant community members can be appropriately informed to avoid notarios.  We recently posted a listing of practice advisories for deferred action on our blog; most of which contained admonitions for immigrants to beware of individuals who are not licensed attorneys or authorized BIA representatives. Our readers can also help combat notario fraud by reporting it.

The Immigration Advocates Network in collaboration with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration recently offered a free webinar on Filing State Legal Actions Against Notarios on July 10th.  The presentation was presented by seasoned attorneys Daniel Blynn, Attorney at Kelly Drye & Warren LLP and David Zetoony, Partner at Bryan Cave LLP.  The webinar was a great primer on 1) detailing what notario fraud was, 2) what practitioners can do about notario fraud, and 3) how to file a civil complaint against notarios.  The webinar offered substantive legal content and is available for viewing to members of the Immigration Advocates Network (membership is free). American Bar Association Commission on Immigration also provides listing of additional resources for practitioners to report notario fraud as well as resources forvictims of notario fraud.

In the upcoming weeks, as we learn more about DHS guidelines on many processes, practitioners should be just as proactive with non-clients as they are with existing clients.  By warning individuals who may not qualify for any immigration about the dangers of notario fraud, you can help to ward off notario abuse and fraud.