Immigration Scams are on the Rise

With immigration scams on the rise, Chicago Tribune reporter Nereoda Moreno delves into the decades of scams that ride on immigrant’s fears, often cost tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and result in permanent banishment from the United States. At its core is one phrase: “notario publico.” In Latin American countries, that title can mean “prestigious lawyer.” But, in the United States, a “notary public” is not an attorney, and cannot provide legal advice, appear in court, serve as an immigration consultant, or complete immigration forms — a notary public is licensed by the state to verify documents and take oaths, and nothing more. Indeed, notaries are great people with their own responsibilities, which are far from the complexities of immigration law. Nonetheless, in cities across the United States, notaries public advertise as “notario publicos,” which, to many Latin American immigrants means “prestigious lawyer.” Preying on these incorrect assumptions, many notrario publicos have taken advantage of thousands of immigrant families and individuals. They bring immigrants in under false pretenses, fill out random forms, lie, claim they are attorneys, make incorrect filings, give false information and advice, and so often, false hope.

The result: thousands of preventable deportations a year, decades of problem solving with immigration authorities, losses to some families as high as a $100,000 to the notario publico alone. Add to this the tens of thousands of dollars in legal and filing fees to resolve the sometimes nearly devastating or permanent issues that arise because of the incorrect or fraudulent immigration documents that a notario publico submitted.

“Notario Publico” does not mean “Prestigious Attorney.”

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