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Notary Bulletin

Federal Officials Rapidly Expanding Nationwide Campaign Against The Unauthorized Practice Of Immigration Law

Federal officials plan to quickly expand their nationwide, multi-agency initiative to combat the unauthorized practice of immigration law — often involving people improperly advertising themselves as Notarios Publicos — to about 20 more cities by the end of the year.

The initiative, which is being spearheaded by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, was launched in June and is designed to crack down on immigration services scams, educate immigrants about finding legitimate assistance and increase the number of individuals providing that assistance.

The USCIS initially focused its education and assistance efforts in seven cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Fresno, Los Angeles, New York and San Antonio. But USCIS officials said in a recent interview with the Notary Bulletin that they plan to expand their outreach and education efforts to nineteen more cities by the end of 2011, including Chicago, Denver, Miami, Kansas City and Honolulu. The expansion plan will take the initiative to all 26 USCIS districts and establish a comprehensive, national effort.

While many immigrant communities are victimized by immigration service fraud, one of the most common scams involves unscrupulous individuals falsely advertising themselves as Notarios Publicos to scam people from Hispanic countries. In Hispanic countries,Notarios Publicos are highly trained legal professionals akin to attorneys who provide legal advice and draft legal documents. In the United States, however, Notaries are state-commissioned officials with narrow witnessing duties and much less discretion.

For many years, the National Notary Association has helped combat Notario fraud by advising Notaries, government officials and the public about the dangers of the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Among other public awareness programs, the NNA continues to distribute, at no charge, a brochure entitled “What Is A Notary Public?”— written in both English and Spanish — to federal and state agencies, as well as community organizations.

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