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Texas 'Notario' Cases Illustrate Chronic Issue

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently filed civil lawsuits against six Rio Grande Valley Notaries Public, accusing them of defrauding immigrant clients by falsely claiming that they had the skill or knowledge necessary to handle their clients’ immigration cases in violation of several state laws. The lawsuits claim the defendants took advantage of confusion over the similarities between the titles Notario Publico and Notary Public. These lawsuits shed light on the chronic issue of Notario abuse that plagues immigrant communities throughout the country.

In Latin American nations, a Notario Publico is a highly skilled and educated attorney capable of giving legal advice and representing clients in legal matters. In the United States, a Notary Public is an individual commissioned by the state to act as a witness to the signing of legal documents. Given the similarities of the titles, it is not uncommon for foreign nationals to believe that a Notary can perform the same tasks as a Notario. This often leads to a Notario taking advantage of a foreign national and offering, for a fee, to complete and file their immigration paperwork.

Foreign nationals often will pay $2,000 or more for assistance with their immigration cases, only to find out that paperwork has been completed and submitted incorrectly, submitted late, or worse, not submitted at all.

The practice of immigration law by inadequately trained individuals is a risky business because filing incorrect documents or missing a deadline can mean the difference between legal status and deportation. Foreign nationals may experience economic hardship or even ruin after investing their life savings into obtaining legal status. In addition, foreign nationals may lose important documents, such as birth certificates, passports, and marriage certificates, when these are given to the Notario for filing and never returned. Often, it is not until the foreign national seeks the help of an attorney due to an adverse action on their case that the unlawful practice of law by a Notario is discovered.

An immigration consultant may only assist with completing forms that you have already chosen to complete, verify signatures and make free referrals to attorneys who can provide representation. Always urge your client to do the following:

  • Find a qualified attorney who regularly practices immigration law and who will show you his or her law degree and state bar information.
  • Understand immigration applications they are filing and the requirements that go along with that application.
  • Make sure they understand exactly what they are signing at all times, and how it applies to their case.

Richard A. Gump, Jr. has been a practicing attorney in Dallas, Texas, for nearly four decades, specializing in immigration and authorized employment. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and has held numerous leadership positions with that organization.

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