In its November Journal, the State Bar of California has issued a stern warning to immigrants. The state is concerned that “unscrupulous ‘consultants’, ‘advisers’, and ‘notarios’ prey on newcomers who don’t understand English well” and that “[t]he plague of fraudsters posing as lawyers or suggesting they are licensed attorneys to scam immigrants is widespread” and “decades old”.
Some of these non-attorney immigration consultants failed to answer calls or hung up on clients who had paid legal fees. Other consultants falsely told clients they had submitted their applications. Even worse than simply losing money, some unsuspecting immigrants have had their path to a valid visa status, green card, or citizenship in the U.S. seriously jeopardized by bad immigration advice or fraudulent immigration applications.
The State Bar is focused on sending fraudulent practitioners to law enforcement sooner. It is also using its authority to intervene when a business advertises using words like ‘notario’ or ‘notario public’ that imply that the business employs licensed attorneys. The State Bar is also pursuing formal legal proceedings – both criminal prosecutions and civil actions – in an attempt to stop the fraudulent behavior and the fraudsters themselves, and to protect and recoup lost money for vulnerable immigrants.
The issue is also widespread in the sense that it exists in both city and rural areas – and across all races and ethnicities.
Before engaging legal counsel, be sure to check their license to practice law, because the consequences of poor immigration advice can be dire!
The full State Bar of California article can be found at the following link: http://calbarjournal.com/November2016/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx.