AILA Urges the California State Legislature to Vote Against AB 1159

Friday, August 2, 2013

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

The proposed law is likely to backfire and encourage fraud on the immigrant community

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the California State Legislature for its commitment to protecting consumers against immigration fraud, but urges the body to reconsider its efforts to advance the cumbersome and ineffective proposal known as the Immigration Reform Act, AB 1159. Instead, AILA calls on legislators to work with immigration lawyers and legal services providers who understand the challenges in meeting the community's needs to find more effective measures to protect potential victims of immigration fraud.

"Any attempt to reduce fraud in immigration services is laudable, but the approach taken by AB1159 will actually have the opposite effect," said Doug Stump, President of AILA. Stump continued, "The proposed requirements would make hiring qualified legal help so cumbersome and costly that it will actually drive people away from qualified lawyers and legitimate service providers and into the arms of fraudulent practitioners."

AILA has identified numerous areas of serious concern with the proposal, which primarily puts additional restrictions on legitimate attorneys, but does little to educate the community about immigration fraud or effectively sanction, much less prevent, fraud.

  • By legislating the attorney/client relationship, the bill would force lawyers to violate professional rules of conduct and may even put clients at risk. For example, a provision mandating return of documents could mean a lawyer would have to disclose information regarding a victim of domestic violence to the abuser.
  • The bill places onerous compliance requirements on immigration lawyers far in excess of what is imposed on other attorneys in California. This will undoubtedly result in higher costs for needed legal services. Those who cannot afford higher fees may be forced into the arms of fraudulent practitioners.
  • The effort needed to comply with increased regulatory burdens will make it difficult if not impossible for lawyers to offer pro bono or low cost legal services to these communities.
  • A "gag" clause in the bill would prevent lawyers from advising clients on how changes in the law might impact their case or how to prepare for change.
  • At a time when there is concern that there are not enough qualified legal professionals to serve the estimated 3-4 million immigrants in California, AB1159 will deter lawyers from offering immigration legal services.

Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA's First Vice President and a member of the California Bar expressed another concern: "At a time when the prospect of large scale immigration reform has highlighted the need for competent legal help for immigrants, AB1159 makes practicing in this area so difficult that we expect to see even fewer people entering the field. Instead of protecting immigrants, this means they won't be able to find good legal help and will be even more likely to be victimized by unscrupulous notarios."

AILA calls upon members of the California State Legislature to act responsibly and respond to these significant concerns that such an overly broad bill will have on consumers in the State of California.


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.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 13080201.