Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11060965 (posted Jun. 9, 2011)"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, June 9, 2011
George Tzamaras / Jenny Werwa
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7628
Proud of partnership with FTC, USCIS, and DOJ
WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the unveiling of a new government initiative to combat the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and immigration services scams that prey on immigrants seeking legal counsel. AILA and other community organizations will work in partnership with three federal agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), to implement a multi-pronged approach for protecting immigrant communities from harmful and dishonest practitioners of immigration law and also improving immigrants' access to qualified legal advice.
"AILA is very excited to work with FTC, USCIS, and DOJ on their new initiative to curb UPL and to help the immigrant victims of fraud. As the immigration bar association, we are eager to provide pro bono legal services to the immigrants who have been scammed out of money and whose cases have been muddled by faulty practices," said AILA President David Leopold.
The new government effort will focus on targeting and shutting down the unlicensed practitioners of immigration law who often call themselves consultants or notarios. Among the most egregious perpetrators of unauthorized practice of law (UPL) are "notarios" - individuals who fraudulently pose as lawyers and 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.
"Shutting down the 'notario' is only half the battle," said Leopold. "The next challenge is sorting through the files and legal cases of the victims and making sure that each individual receives the proper legal advice for their situation. And, currently, the demand for expertise in immigration law exceeds the number of available attorneys. This is where AILA comes in.
"We are working together in partnership with other law groups to help the victims directly and also to train attorneys in the fundamental aspects of immigration law so that they can also help the victims of UPL. It's a proud day for AILA and our partners who will be offering pro bono services to help these people," said Leopold.
AILA is also a host of the consumer protection website, StopNotarioFraud.org which 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 agency and online resources for reporting immigration scams and also offers the opportunity to be matched with a volunteer attorney who can help remedy the consumer fraud.
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.
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.