Unfortunately, each year thousands of aliens fall prey to certain individuals who either pose as immigration attorneys or who proclaim such titles as “immigration consultant” or “notario” (collectively we call them “Fixers”). Most of these “fixers” have little to no expertise in the area of immigration law. Immigration consultants, notarios, and even those who have a Juris Doctorate degree (JD), are not the same as licensed immigration lawyers. Most immigration consultants or notarios have little knowledge of immigration law and are not required to comply with the continuous education requirements of a licensed immigration attorney.
Many aliens are duped for a number of reasons. Many have limited command of English which make them more susceptible to immigration scams. Other aliens rely on consultants or notarios because they believe their immigration matter is “simple” and that the practice of immigration law is filling out certain forms. Even those aliens who are more sophisticated may be fooled by someone who appears to know immigration law when in reality they are not even remotely qualified.
Aliens from Spanish speaking countries and especially from Mexico fall prey to immigration consultants who hold themselves out as a Notary Public which in Spanish translates into “Notario Publico.” A Notario Publico in Mexico, holds a similar position of legal authority as a lawyer in the United States. Therefore, most Mexican nationals equate Notarios with having the same level of expertise as a qualified immigration attorney, making Mexican nationals an easy target. Aliens must keep in mind that Notary Publics in the United States are authorized to witness the signing of legal documents, but they are not authorized to practice immigration law.
The problem is that aliens are deceived into thinking they qualify for certain immigration benefits when actually they do not. Aliens from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Philippines are common targets. Most commonly, in exchange for a hefty fee, consultants or notarios promise to obtain Green Cards and legal status for aliens when they are clearly not qualified. These “fixers” submit applications while knowing very well that they will be denied. By the time that an alien discovers that it was a scam, the immigration fixer packs up, moves to a new location, and continues to conduct their fraudulent scams under a different name. Other fixers have been known to threaten aliens with deportation or turn them into the police to keep them from reporting the fraud. This causes aliens to remain silent in fear of deportation.
“Fixers” may charge anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Not only are they taking the hard earned cash of undocumented aliens, but they are also placing aliens in danger of being deported. Aliens have to be careful not only of fraudulent immigration consultants, but of immigration lawyers who are willing to engage in schemes as well. Many aliens do not hire lawyers specializing in immigration law because they think lawyers are more expensive. However, by first hiring a notario or consultant, they end up not only paying twice, but jeopardized their chances of obtaining a lawful immigration status.
We recommend consultations only with licensed attorneys who specializes in immigration law. Do not become a victim.
Author's Note: The analysis and suggestions offered in this column do not create a lawyer-client relationship and are not a substitute for the individual legal research and personalized representation that is essential to every case.