Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10120669 (posted Dec. 6, 2010)"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 6, 2010
George Tzamaras / Jenny Werwa
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7628
StopNotarioFraud.org will help immigrant victims of unauthorized practice of law
WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is proud to debut StopNotarioFraud.org, a dynamic new consumer protection resource dedicated to combating the unscrupulous exploitation of immigrants in need of legal counsel. The bilingual website, slated to go live on December 7, is AILA's online effort to educate immigrant communities and the general public about the harmful and dishonest conduct of unauthorized practitioners of immigration law including notarios and other unlicensed consultants. Among the most egregious perpetrators of unauthorized practice of law (UPL) are "notarios" - practitioners who mischaracterize their credentials of American common-law notary publics-because they prey on Spanish-speaking immigrants who culturally identify a "Notario" as a professional with an advanced legal degree.
"AILA is committed to preventing fraud and UPL abuse. StopNotarioFraud.org is a new and accessible way to help victims and also instruct consumers on how to avoid unlicensed practitioners," said AILA President David Leopold. "Notarios and unqualified consultants practicing immigration law cause devastating and sometimes irreparable harm to the lives and families of immigrants and we are determined to do anything we can to end the predatory behavior of UPLs," added Leopold.
The user-friendly website includes video, news articles, and other easy-to-follow materials for victims, consumers, and concerned attorneys who care deeply about protecting immigrants from fraud. StopNotarioFraud.org directs victims to the appropriate state agency for reporting abuse as well as an opportunity to be matched with a volunteer attorney who can help remedy the wrongdoing of unlicensed practitioners.
"Immigration law is extremely complicated and detail oriented. Even misfiling one form could make the difference between an immigrant staying in the United States with his or her family and getting sent back to the home country- and the client has no right to recourse if the person who filled out the paper work is unlicensed," explained Gerry Chapman who chairs AILA's Committee to end Unauthorized Practice of Law. Chapman continued, "I don't think that most people understand how hard, timely, and expensive it can be to handle immigration matters - what they don't see are the people who are ordered deported because an unlicensed consultant incorrectly entered a home address on a work authorization form."
StopNotarioFraud.org also helps users avoid immigration scammers. In English and Spanish, it includes tips such as: Don't believe it if someone tells you about a secret law or claims to have connections or special influence with any agency; Never sign an application that contains false information, and avoid signing blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and review it for accuracy before it is filed; and, Don't let anyone "find" you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card-it's illegal.
"We hope that our new website will reduce the harm caused to immigrants and their families by UPL in the United States. Immigration can be a controversial issue in this country, but we all agree that cheating, scamming, and victimizing vulnerable populations is wrong and should be stopped," said Leopold.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.