DO I NEED A LAWYER?
What Do I Need a Lawyer For?
Deciding whether to seek the help of a lawyer—as with the decision to see a doctor—is a personal choice. As you explore whether hiring an immigration attorney is right for you and your situation, consider the following statements from respected judges and comprehensive congressional reports:
- “Since 1931 the law on deportation has not become simpler. With only a small degree of hyperbole, immigration laws have been termed ‘second only today Internal Revenue Code in complexity.’ A lawyer is often the only person who could thread the labyrinth.” Castro-O’Ryan v. INS, 821 F.2d 1415, 1419 (9th Cir. 1987).
- “Every immigration benefit has its own set of rules, regulations, and procedures. Many are complex and time-consuming to adjudicate. Some are so difficult to process that specialists must handle them.” 9/11 and Terrorist Travel, Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, at 98 (August 21, 2004).
- “The statutory scheme defining and delimiting the rights of aliens is exceedingly complex. Courts and commentators have stated that the Immigration and Nationality Act resembles ‘King Minos’ labyrinth in ancient Crete,’ and is ‘second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.’” Chan v. Reno, 1997 U.S. Dist. Lexis 3016, *5 (S.D.N.Y. 1997).
If your immigration plans are important to you, it is worthwhile to have an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through the complex and ever-changing process. An attorney will greatly improve your chances of success, help you avoid delays in the process, and save you the anxiety that comes with trying to navigate an unfamiliar and complex legal system. Be careful of websites, apps, and other software that charge you a fee to auto-fill immigration forms, but do not protect you against pitfalls with a licensed immigration attorney’s comprehensive analysis.
A national non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of immigrants shares the following advice:
Beware Of …
- Notaries, consultants, service bureaus, travel agents, or others who promise quick, easy solutions to immigration problems.
- Anyone who guarantees they can get you a visa for a certain fee.
- Lawyers from other countries who do not know U.S. laws and are not licensed to practice in the United States.
- People who say they “know someone” who has an “inside track” or anyone who wants money to influence or bribe.
- Be wary of unlicensed operators! They are not accountable to anyone. They are known for taking people’s money and doing nothing. Or worse, they may lie to the government in your name for a quick, simple solution that in the end may result in your deportation or permanent exclusion from the United States. Remember, in the U.S., it is illegal to practice law without a license.
How Can an Immigration Lawyer Help You?
An immigration lawyer can help you in the following ways:
- Analyze the facts of your case thoroughly and create for you a comprehensive immigration strategy for your future.
- Explain all the benefits for which you may be eligible.
- Complete and submit your application package properly.
- Stay current on new laws that affect you.
- Avoid delays and problems with your case whenever possible.
- Discuss the status of your case with you.
- Protect your confidential information. Certain legal privileges and protections apply only to individuals who are represented by licensed attorneys. For example, a person who has disclosed potentially incriminating information to his/her attorney is protected from being forced to produce the information in court or other enforcement proceedings.
- Shield you from direct communications from the government. If you are represented by a licensed attorney, your lawyer will become the “attorney of record.” As such, the government will contact your attorney instead of you.
- Utilize the system to your advantage because he has the experience to do so.
California State Bar Warns: Beware of Non-Attorney Immigration Consultants
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 “[the] 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!