This Week in Immigration News, the Good, The Bad, and the Hopeful

Just when it seems like life couldn’t get any more difficult for immigrants wanting to make a better life for themselves in the U.S., the news cycle keeps churning out the hits.

Last week’s big headlines brought frustrating revelations about funding for the border wall along the Mexico-U.S. border, as well as renewed discussions about enhanced restrictions on legal immigration.

Though it may seem like things are getting worse on the immigration front, but there’s still hope that a light at the end of the tunnel remains.

Bad News, Good News

Talk of building a massive border wall was a central subject to President Donald Trump’s campaign. In fact, it is probably one of the key promises that helped him to get elected. This despite the fact that a large wall already exists on the border and is patrolled by a highly militarized police force. For whatever reason, building a new one is incredibly important to Trump’s administration and his supporters.

Last week, the house appropriations committee released a bill that would allocate $1.6 billion to begin construction of a barrier along the U.S. border with Mexico.

While the bill still has to go through the standard legislative process before construction can begin, it is tied to a larger spending bill to provide funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the Hill, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows said that Trump would not sign a spending measure if the wall were not funded.

But there are plenty of highly public reasons to suggest that the Trump administration won’t succeed with its plans to move forward with the wall as described. For starters, a poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post gave President Trump the lowest six-month approval rating of any president in the past seven decades. According to the poll, only 36 percent of Americans approve of his performance. The only president to come close to this was Gerald Ford, who in 1979, scored higher at 39 percent.

While this may mean little to those who would bemoan or dismiss the opinions of mainstream media and so called “fake news,” it could potentially affect Trump’s standing with his own party, and hinder his ability to pass legislation.

This is evident in the difficulties the Republican Party is having with its passage of a healthcare bill to replace Obamacare, another core promise of the Trump campaign. On Tuesday it was announced that two Senate Republicans had withdrawn support for the bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving it without enough votes to pass.

Additionally, with the intensification of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for even moderate Republicans to defend and support his policies.

Even if construction on a new wall is approved, it’s quite possible the finished product will be far smaller than what Trump originally promised.

But those of us who practice immigration law, while concerned with Trump’s rhetoric on the border wall and the message of exclusion it sends to immigrants, are probably more concerned with the power his administration has to make changes to rules governing legal immigration.

On Friday, CNN.com reported that Trump’s White House is working with two republican Senators, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, to develop new restrictions to legal immigration. The bill is expected to limit the family members who can be sponsored to come to the U.S. to primarily spouses and minor children. The bill also seeks to eliminate the diversity visa lottery.

Sanity Has Left the Building

There are times when it seems that the loudest voices are the least likely to listen to reason. On the issue of immigration, the policies being floated in the halls of power seem to be completely lacking any sense of practicality or reason.

To wit, a recent Los Angeles Times article focused on the town of Grand Island in Nebraska, and a series of immigration raids that occurred there 10 years ago.

In 2006, with anti-immigration politicians complaining that undocumented workers were taking local jobs, federal agents conducted a series of raids, storming a large meatpacking plant in town, and detaining thousands of suspected illegal workers. Deportations ensued, theoretically clearing a path for American-born workers to find employment. But over the following decade, Somali, Latino and Cuban workers filled the vacant jobs.

And yet despite stories like these, calls to ramp up immigration blockades continue.

Keep Hope Alive

If you’re an immigrant who’s struggling with a legal issue, or worried about the future of an immigrant family member or friend, keep the faith. In some cases, a qualified immigration attorney can assess your circumstances and help you find a solution to your problem. In other cases, it’s a matter of trudging ahead despite the negativity. While the situation might seem dire, there’s still reason to believe that things could change, for the better.

Trump’s Travel Ban, The Latest

For many who have been staying current on the news since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the experience has been an unpleasant roller coaster ride.

The Trump Administration ban on immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries was announced out January — a mere eight days after his inauguration.  A federal court almost immediately halted the executive order. Then, a revised version was released, followed by yet another block from another federal court.

Yesterday, after months of protests and appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court unfortunately allowed a limited version of Trump’s ban to take effect and has agreed to review multiple rulings by lower courts blocking the travel ban.

While the impact this ruling will have on immigrants and their families isn’t immediately known, it’s more harsh and unwelcome news from an administration that’s been openly hostile to immigrants and people of color.

The Travel Ban, A Brief Timeline

A good breakdown of the history of Trump’s travel bans can be found at CNN.com. The timeline details the following events:

On January 28, President Trump announced the first travel ban, by way of executive order. The action banned citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days. The ban also indefinitely halted the immigration of refugees from Syria.

The ban was partially blocked a day later by a federal court in New York.  In that ruling, Federal Judge Ann M. Donnelly ruled that the ban could potentially violate due process rights.

Additionally, lawyers representing two lawful permanent residents employed stateside as college professors filed suit in Massachusetts. The judge in that case issued a partial restraining order against the ban stating that the government could not detain or remove those who arrived in the U.S. legally from the black listed countries.

In February, the ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against reinstating the ban.

On March 6, Trump unveiled a new ban that excluded Iraq from the original list of banned Muslim majority countries. This iteration of the ban prohibited citizens from the listed countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. All refugees wanting to come to the U.S. meanwhile, would be delayed 120 days. Within a week, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the order a ruling that was extended on March 29.

According to CNN, Federal Judge Derrick Watson argued that by singling out Muslims, the ban likely violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court Gets Involved

Yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court allows the Trump ban to proceed, although limitations are imposed on its reach.

The limited ban will prevent travelers from the six listed countries from coming to the U.S. if they don’t have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.

Theoretically, foreign nationals whose visas have been sponsored by a family member or employer will still be allowed to travel to the U.S.

According to National Public Radio (NPR), some of the court’s most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, along with newcomer and Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch— wanted to approve the ban completely.

The court’s 13-page decision stated that all nine justices agreed to review the lower courts’ rulings on the travel ban.

Why It Matters

While there is cause for hope in the court’s decision to temporarily limit the scope of the ban, a particularly disturbing aspect remains. Typically the Supreme Court is hesitant to get involved in cases decided upon by lower courts unless the lower courts are divided on an issue. In this case, the two federal courts that ruled on the issue earlier this year, the 4th circuit and 9th circuit, both ruled in favor of halting the ban.

For now, it appears there will be more uncertainty for those in the immigrant community as the highest court in the land prepares to consider the case. If you have legal questions about the immigration process or how it will be affected by recent events in Washington D.C., contact our office for more information.

US Visa Waiver Program

Those who have researched the process of applying for a permanent or temporary non-immigrant visa know how challenging it can be. Luckily for some foreign nationals, the US visa waiver program eliminates some of the red tape for those interested in traveling to the Unites States for a short time.

This page was designed to offer some general information to foreign citizens who are interested in applying for a visa waiver as well as those who might be unsure about whether they should consult an immigration attorney. Continue reading to learn more about the following topics:

  • What is the visa waiver program?
  • List of visa waiver program countries
  • Applying for a visa waiver
  • Should I consult an attorney?

It’s important to keep in mind that nothing contained on this page is intended as a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney. Federal immigration law is complex and filing errors can be expensive and time consuming. If you have questions about applying for the program, contact our immigration lawyer for more information.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The US visa waiver program is administered by US Customs and Border Protection, and allows citizens of 38 specific countries to temporarily come to the U.S. as tourists or on business for up to 90 days. The program is based on legislation initiated in 1986.

The program has an element of reciprocity with the 38 foreign countries allowing U.S. citizens similar freedom when traveling for business or pleasure. Travelers under this program are not eligible to extend their status or adjust status unless based on a petition sponsored by an immediate relative.

Applicants who are granted a visa waiver for the purposes of tourism are granted WT status. Meanwhile, business travelers are granted WB status. See the next section for a list of visa waiver program countries.

List of Visa Waiver Program Countries

Citizens from the following countries are eligible to apply for a visa waiver from U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Unfortunately, citizens who are members of visa waiver program countries, but who have traveled to the following countries on or after March 1, 2011, are no longer eligible to travel under the visa waiver program: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Continue reading to learn more about the application process for the visa waiver program.

Applying for a Visa Waiver

In order to apply under program, citizens from eligible visa waiver program countries (listed above) obtain permission through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ETSA). Citizens who hail from visa waiver eligible countries are encouraged to apply through ETSA at least 72 hours before boarding a plane or vessel to the U.S.

The eligible citizen must be in possession of a valid passport from a visa waiver country, and intend to come to the US for either business or pleasure. The current fee to file this application is $14.

Starting in April of 2016, foreign citizens who apply for the visa waiver program are required to be in possession of an e-Passport. This is a passport enhanced with an embedded electronic chip similar to those found in bank and credit cards. The chip stores data on the passport holder such as name, date of birth as well as a biometric identifier. This chip has been designed to prevent unauthorized reading or skimming of data stored on the device.

The person arriving in the U.S. under the visa waiver program, whether by air or sea, must be in possession of an electronic passport, as well as a round trip travel ticket.

Applicants who come to the U.S. by land under the visa waiver program must be able to provide documentation of financial solvency and residence abroad as evidence that they plan to return to their country of origin.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Those who are attempting to temporarily come to the U.S under the visa waiver program are not required to obtain the services of an immigration attorney. However, a lawyer will help a foreign citizen understand his or her eligibility and obligations under the visa waiver program as well as other visa programs.

It’s important to remember that a person applying for any type of extended travel to the U.S. will be scrutinized by federal agents and subject to extensive background checks. In addition, there will be multiple points of contact with federal bureaucrats, and simple filing errors can lead to potential delays. It’s always a good idea to discuss the immigration process with an attorney in order to avoid filing errors and other complications. If you still have questions about the visa waiver program, contact our office to see how we can help.

Presidents Who Banned Immigrants – Historical Precedent and Effectiveness

President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders have throttled the topic of immigration from a hot-button political issue to a scalding caldron of social division. The original order, signed by trump on January 27, sought to ban travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and would have barred refugees from any country from entering the U.S. for 120 days. Meanwhile, refugees hailing from war-torn Syria would be barred indefinitely. The seven countries included in the ban were: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump defended the ban as necessary because of concerns relating to Islam and terrorism. While the order specifically mentioned the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the State Department’s failure to prevent the hijackers from getting into the country, Trump’s travel ban ironically did not include any of the countries involved in that attack.

Following hastily implemented enforcement protocols, which led to widespread chaos at airports around the country, Trump’s ban was challenged by multiple states, and on February 3, a federal judge blocked the order.

On March 6, Trump signed a revised order with slightly relaxed restrictions. While the Justice Department has asked the courts to delay litigation on the previous order (the courts have refused), the new order has removed blanket restrictions affecting Iraqi citizens.

While uncertainty about the future of foreign travel is unsettling for many immigrants and their families, and the rhetoric surrounding Trump’s policies are deeply concerning, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t the first time a President has issued a ban on immigration.

But a cursory look at some of the presidents who banned immigrants in the past illuminates a striking difference between the current administration, and its predecessors. Specifically, past presidents were often bowing to significant congressional pressure when they signed restrictive immigration legislation. In some cases, these presidents used their veto powers to either limit the scope of the legislation, or block it altogether.

Conversely, Trump’s restrictions on immigration appear to originate unilaterally from the White House. Here’s a brief list of some of the more infamous anti-immigration policies enacted from U.S. history, and the presidents involved.

Presidents Who Banned Immigrants Donald Trump Travel Ban Effectiveness

The Chinese Exclusion Act

The Chinese Exclusion Act – Signed into law in 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur, the Chinese Exclusion Act is perhaps one of the most famous incidents involving presidents who banned immigrants.

Believed to be the first federal law to exclude an entire ethnic working group because the group endangered “the good order of certain localities,” the Act was a response to rabid anti-Chinese sentiment that arose as the spoils of the gold rush dwindled and many Chinese laborers made their way west to work on the Trans Continental Railroad.

Arthur vetoed an earlier version of the act, which banned Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. for 20 years — approving a compromise that would last for 10 years instead. The Act effectively suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States, and also made it unlawful for those already in the U.S. to remain. The Act also placed limitations on non-laborers that were so restrictive, Chinese immigration dropped precipitously.

In 1892, the act was extended for another 10 years, and was made permanent in 1902.

It wasn’t until 1943, when China was seen as an Ally in the U.S. war against Japan, that Congress repealed the act, giving foreign-born Chinese the right to seek naturalization.

The Immigration Act of 1917

The Immigration Act of 1917 – Also known as the Literacy Act, this piece of legislation came to fruition after years of lobbying by groups such as the Immigration Restriction League. Though multiple presidents considered the legislation, it was also vetoed multiple times before its passage.

The Immigration Restriction League was formed by a small group of Harvard graduates in 1894. The group equated the negative effects of rapidly increasing urban centers with an influx of immigrants hailing from Italy and Eastern Europe. For years, the league advocated a literacy requirement for those seeking to enter the country.

The literacy test was designed to keep immigrants — many of whom were poor and uneducated — out of the country.

A circular political advertisement distributed by the League in 1915 urged citizens to write the president and ask that the law be passed.

“We need to have this legislation on the statute books to deal with the large immigration of lower quality sure to come after the war is over,” the circular stated.

President Grover Cleveland had vetoed an earlier law requiring a literacy test.  Then, in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson vetoed similar legislation. In his veto message to the House of Representatives, Wilson took specific aim at the law’s literacy test.

“It excludes those to whom the opportunities of elementary education have been denied, without regard to their character, their purposes, or their natural capacity.”

After vetoing the law a second time in 1917, Congress was able to gather the votes necessary to override veto and the law eventually went into effect.

The Johnson-Reed Act

The Johnson-Reed Act – In the history of presidents who banned immigrants, this act represented another first. Signed in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge, it was the first law to impose quotas on immigrant visas. The law required the number immigrants admitted from any given country to equal 2 percent of the people living in the U.S. who also hailed from that country.

In addition, immigrants from Asia were totally banned.

Coolidge was elected president in 1923 following America’s involvement in the First World War. Public sentiment at the time sought to isolate America’s involvement in global matters, and fears loomed about the spread of communism as a result of immigration from eastern and southern Europe.

In a 2015 interview with alt-right publication Breitbart News, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (then a Senator from Alabama) praised the effectiveness of the 1924 law.

“In seven years we’ll have the highest percentage of Americans, non-native born, since the founding of the Republic,” Sessions claimed. “Some people think we’ve always had these numbers, and it’s not so, it’s very unusual, it’s a radical change. When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly.”

The International Security Act of 1950

The International Security Act of 1950 – Also known as the McCarran Act, this law was passed at a time when hysteria over the spread of communist subversion was growing. The law sought to make it possible to deport immigrants believed to be members of the communist party. President Harry Truman, calling it un-American, vetoed the bill.

In his letter to the House of Representatives, Truman praised aspects of the omnibus legislation that sought to remove racial barriers to naturalization as well as an easing of immigration quotas to Asia. But referring to other parts of the bill, he described it as a “mass of legislation which would perpetuate injustices … against many other nations of the world, hamper the efforts we are making to rally the men of East and West alike to the cause of freedom, and intensify the repressive and inhumane aspects of our immigration procedures.”

Unfortunately, Congress was able to gather the votes necessary to override Truman’s veto, and the bill became law.

While the law remained in effect for decades, a gradual dismantling of the Act began in 1965 when the Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the law requiring members of the communist party to register with the government.

Iranian Sanctions of 1980

Iranian Sanctions of 1980 – Many remember the hostage crisis that occurred during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. This event involved the capture of more than 60 American embassy personnel in Tehran, who were held for 444 days.  Some defenders of Trump’s ban liken the current president’s action on immigration to Carter’s sanctions.

During the crisis, Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti ordered all Iranians in the U.S. with student visas to report to U.S. Immigration officials or face deportation. In 1980, Carter announced a series of sanctions against Iran that included an order to invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry to the U.S. Carter made an exception for those coming to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons.

While right-wing bloggers have argued that Carter’s order was similar to Trump’s ban, political experts say it differs sharply. This due to the fact that Carter’s ban specifically focused on citizens of a country that had a conflict with the U.S.

Trump’s ban, meanwhile, is focused largely on the Islamic faith, which is not similarly connected to terrorism.

While this list may provide little solace to those immigrants who fear the very immediate repercussions of Trump’s travel ban, it’s important to remember that despite the best efforts of America’s lawmakers, immigrants still built and thrived in this country. And if Trump’s scandal with Russia and numerous conflicts of interest continue to grow, there may be even more room for more hope yet.

What Immigrants Should Know about Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee

It’s not easy to be an immigrant. And these days, the digital news cycle seems to herald doom and gloom for the immigrant community with every click of the computer’s refresh button. I’ve counseled many foreign born clients who have expressed deep anxiety about what the future holds for them — particularly in the midst of our current political climate.

Neil Gorsuich Supreme Court Nominee Immigration Law & PositionsAs questions continue to linger about what border walls and immigration bans mean for families in the short term, there are also questions about how current immigration laws will be interpreted in the years and decades to come. These questions have been brought into focus (somewhat) by President Donald Trump’s recent nomination to the Supreme Court, Colorado Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The significance of this nomination stems from the fact that Supreme Court justices serve lifetime tenure. While President Trump’s executive actions might be squelched within the next four years, Gorsuch, one of the youngest judges nominated to the bench at 49, could be making decisions affecting the lives of immigrants for decades to come. For reference, the former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. retired from the court at age 90.

Neil Gorsuch’s History on Immigration

Though it’s too early to say exactly how Gorsuch will rule on specific immigration cases that come before the court, we can look at some of his decisions as a federal judge to get a sense of where he stands on certain issues.

A recent article published by the American Immigration Council legal staff notes that Gorusch’s track record as a jurist shows he is “neither a staunch defender nor a harsh critic of immigrant’s rights.” A decision he wrote in 2013 appears to suggest some compassion for an immigrant ensnared in a confusing bureaucratic system.

The case involved Arturo Montano-Vega, who was in the country illegally. Facing deportation, Vega sought to leave the country voluntarily in order to avoid a legally mandated 10-year ban on readmission for aliens who have been ordered removed. But the judge who initially considered Vega’s case denied his request for voluntary departure because of a criminal record. In order to appeal the decision, Vega would have to remain in the country which would subject him to another legally mandated 10-year ban for aliens who are unlawfully in the country for a year or more.

In his decision, Gorsuch offered some compassionate words writing that Vega’s choices offered a “daunting prospect.”  Gorsuch added that “admittedly, no option—staying or going—held much attraction” for Vega.

However, in a 2010 case involving a federal immigration detainee who was tased three times by his jailers while restrained, Gorsuch overturned a lower court ruling in favor of the detainee.

While Gorsuch didn’t rule on an abundance of immigration cases during his time on the federal bench, he’ll no doubt get the opportunity if his nomination to the Supreme Court is approved by congress. Gorsuch’s admission to the court would yield a panel of judges tilted in favor of conservative ideology.

Is Gorsuch Similar to Scalia?

A recent New York Times article noted that Gorsuch appears to share some common philosophy on the law with his predecessor, ultra conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Both men are considered originalists, meaning that when they consider cases, they try to identify with the perspective of the men originally drafted the constitution more than 200 years ago.

In a 2012 dissenting opinion involving Arizona and immigration, Scalia argued that states should have the right to remove what he referred to as “unwanted immigrants.” In his opinion, Scalia wrote “in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted criminals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks.”

But while Scalia was known for writing with a fiery and at times offensive prose, Gorsuch is known for writing with a more courteous demeanor. Whether this quieter tone makes a difference in how he decides cases, remains to be seen.

Gorsuch hails from Colorado, and like all current Supreme Court justices is a graduate of the Ivy League. He attended Columbia University as well as Harvard Law. He was appointed to the United States of Appeals, 10th Circuit by former President George W. Bush in 2006.

Notarios & Immigration Consultants are Breaking the Law

For as long as there have been foreign nationals seeking legal entry into the U.S., there have been predatory businesses seeking to take advantage of immigrants. A specific group of predators, with limited or no training, offer to help foreign nationals file petitions for visas and other immigration applications. These businesses go by various names such as immigration consultants or “notarios.” Notarios practice law without a law license.

Notario is the most commonly used name for these types of companies. While some consultant businesses offer legitimate immigration consulting services recognized by sanctioning government agencies, others violate legal restrictions designed to protect vulnerable immigrants. This is done in the pursuit of collecting large fees. Notarios often claim that their applications are reviewed by a lawyer. More often than not, this is untrue.

In some cases, notarios will promise unsuspecting foreign nationals more than they can deliver, leaving the immigrant with a large bill and without a visa in the process. This page was designed to warn those who might be seeking legal entry into the U.S. about the pitfalls of dealing with immigration consultants such as notarios. It is also designed to help those who might be deciding between hiring a notario or an attorney, consider their options.

Notario & Immigration Consultant Fraud | Immigration Hope

The following topics are covered on this page:

  • Notario Basics
  • What to do if You’ve Been Scammed
  • Consulting an Attorney

It’s important to remember that while certain legal concepts are discussed on this page, it is not intended as a substitute for speaking with a qualified immigration attorney. If you have questions about the immigration consulting services offered by notarios, or what to do if you or a loved has been scammed, contact our office to see how we can help.

Notario & Immigration Consultant Basics

Whether a foreign national is seeking to come to the U.S. through a family or work- related visa, there are a number of very specific forms he or she must file with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Different forms are filled out depending on the type of visa desired.

The visa application process can be complicated and trying, especially for many foreign nationals who don’t speak English and are unfamiliar with the U.S. immigration system.  It’s a process that can be challenging even for attorneys.

Though the California Business and Professions Code allows for non-lawyers to provide some immigration consultating services, the law expressly forbids non-lawyers to practice law or represent persons before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and US Citizenship and Immigrant Services.

Under California’s Business and Professions Code, non-lawyers providing immigration consultancy services are limited to specific activities, such as completing federal or state forms, or translating a person’s answers on such forms. The law specifically forbids the immigration consultant from advising the client on how to answer specific questions on the form.

The title notario is controversial because it can be confusing to persons who hail from certain Latin American countries. The term is short for Notario Publico, which translates to notary public. While in the U.S., notary publics are not considered  lawyers, in some Latin American countries, they are.

As a result, some immigrants who seek the advice of notarios can become confused about the help they are being offered, and problems can occur when a predatory or dishonest consultant dispenses legal advice in exchange for a fee.

To get an idea of how easy it is for a Notario to cross the line and provide legal advice, consider the multitude of visa options available to foreign nationals seeking to immigrate.  By simply suggesting which form to fill out, a Notario could be in violation of state law for providing legal advice.

The problem of unqualified consultants providing immigration advice is hardly a new one. As far back as 2004, the Los Angeles Times wrote about an immigration scam, which exploited confusion over the term Notario, as having “bilked” thousands of Latino immigrants, after they were charged “exorbitant fees”, forced to file frivolous paperwork while spending years waiting to immigrate.

In some cases, the Times reported, immigrants were unknowingly signed up for asylum, which resulted in temporary work permits while the cases were pending adjudication. However, because Mexican nationals are rarely granted political asylum, once the requests were reviewed, they were usually deemed invalid.

Disturbingly, because many of the foreign nationals who seek the services of notarios are in the country illegally, they are less likely to report to the authorities when they are scammed out of fear of being deported.

It’s important to remember, that there is legal recourse for those who believe they have been scammed by a Notario — even those who are not legal immigrants.

Continue reading to learn more about the legal options available.

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed by a Notario or Immigration Consultant

Because of the training and standards applied to the legal profession, it is usually preferable to speak with an attorney whenever applying for a visa or other immigration document.

However, those who have been taken advantage of by a dishonest notario or immigration consulting service can seek recourse in civil court. The California Business and Professions Code 22445(a)(1) provides up to $100,000 in civil penalties for each violation of the code.

As mentioned in the previous section, those who provide immigration consultant services are required to follow strict guidelines when dealing with clients. For instance, a legitimate consultant must provide a written contract translated into the client’s native language. In addition, signed receipts printed on the business letterhead must also be provided. Perhaps most importantly, any contract between the immigration consultant and client must include a statement in 10-point boldface that the consultant is not an attorney.

Several other requirements apply. In cases where a Notario has failed to follow these requirements, the client could be eligible for financial damages for each violation.

Consulting an Attorney

If you feel either you or a loved one has been taken advantage of by a dishonest notario, contact our immigration lawyer to see if we can help you obtain damages. Regardless of whether you were in the country legally when you contacted the Notorio, you are still entitled to compensation if violations occurred.

If you are considering going with a notorio or other immigration consulting, as opposed to a qualified immigration attorney, remember that federal law is complex, and an attorney trains for several years before specializing in a specific area such as immigration law. Whatever your situation, you want to hire an advocate who is both highly trained and recognized by sanctioning bodies for their skill. To see how we can help, contact our office.