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States, Congress Step Up The Fight Against Immigration Fraud In 2017

notario publico fraud

Editor’s Note: Any Notary or person who is not an attorney and wishes to help immigrants with their paperwork should make sure they are properly trained, bonded and registered per the regulations of their state.

Criminals who prey on immigrants by offering fraudulent legal services — often advertising as Notarios publicos — remain a serious problem nationwide. That has prompted State and federal lawmakers to introduce a number of new legislative measures in the past few months intended to combat immigration fraud and regulate immigration service providers.

Here’s a look at some of the most recent bills and actions taken to address this problem:

Arizona
 

Arizona has introduced a bill to crack down on fraudulent immigration assistance by self-styled notarios who falsely advertise legal training and services similar to attorneys. SB 1421 would prohibit nonattorney Notaries from rendering any service that constitutes the unauthorized practice of immigration law, and adds a civil penalty of $1,000 maximum and permanent revocation of the Notary’s commission for unauthorized immigration services.

California
 

The Golden State has one of the largest immigrant populations in the country, and consequently these immigrants are often targeted by notarios and other dishonest individuals who advertise fraudulent legal assistance for immigrants. Los Angeles city officials announced last month plans to prosecute several alleged notarios in court. The Los Angeles City Council also is considering a measure to license immigration consultants operating in the city.

In February, the state Assembly introduced AB 638, which if passed would prohibit any person from offering immigration services for compensation unless the person is an attorney or authorized by federal law to represent persons before the USCIS Board of Immigration Appeals. AB 638 would also define any advertising that uses literal translation into other languages of titles such as “Notary Public,” “Notary,” “Licensed,” “Attorney,” “Lawyer” or other terms that imply the advertiser is an attorney and is authorized to practice law.

Idaho
 

House Bill 125, which would enact the Revised Uniform Law On Notarial Acts (RULONA), includes provisions that clarify a Notary commission does not grant authority to act as an immigration consultant and would prohibit nonattorney Notaries from advertising using the term “Notario” or “Notario publico.”

Minnesota
 

Minnesota’s HF 1609 also clarifies that a Notary commission does not permit a person to act as an immigration consultant and prohibits nonattorney Notaries from advertising using the term “Notario” or “Notario publico.”

Nevada
 

AB 324 would prohibit persons who register as a document preparation service to advertise as paralegals, legal assistants or use other advertising that implies the person is operating under the supervision of an attorney. Nevada previously passed laws prohibiting Notaries from using foreign-language titles in advertising in 2015.

U.S. Congress
 

In February, Congress introduced HR 912, the Protecting Immigrants From Legal Exploitation Act of 2017, which if enacted would make it a federal crime to knowingly or recklessly defraud an immigrant by falsely claiming to be an attorney or accredited immigration representative. The bill would also direct the Department of Justice to develop regulations, forms and procedures for assisting immigrants with preparing and translating documents, and would amend immigration laws to waive certain restrictions preventing victims of immigration practitioner fraud from reentering the United States. 

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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2 Comments

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Tomasa Sanchez

05 Jun 2017

DEFEAT AB638

Teresita de jesus De La Pena

06 Jun 2017

DEFEAT AB638

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