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The Complexities of Immigration Law and Notario Fraud


With the prospect of possible immigration reform looming on the horizon, notarios and other unlicensed individuals will get to work and take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants. As a result, many would-be-immigrants will lose money or immigration benefits or both.

A notary public in the United States is an individual commissioned by the state's secretary of state to authenticate (notarize) signatures on legal documents. In Central and South America a notario publico, the Spanish translation of notary public, refers to a legal professional authorized to practice law. An immigration service provider fraud occurs when notary publics hold themselves out as notarios to Latin immigrants and others. Those immigrants mistakenly think the notario is authorized to practice law when in fact s/he is not.

Immigration law is complicated and unfortunately, immigration consultants, often referred to as notarios prey on immigrants and commit immigration service provider fraud. The problem is wide-spread, nation-wide, and can have severe consequences. Notarios often charge exorbitant amounts of money for work never performed; file incorrect or inapplicable paperwork with USCIS, which may trigger undesirable interviews or investigations by Immigration & Customs Enforcement; and too often, deportation proceedings. The fraud not only affects the victim, but his/her spouse and children.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Frankly, immigrants should be represented by licensed immigration attorneys only. Immigration law is a moving target and its complexity is unsurpassed. But, don't take it from me; following are some excerpts from a report by the Congressional Research Service on the Complexity of Immigration Law to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

  • Since 1931 the law on deportation has not become simpler. With only a small degree of hyperbole, the immigration laws have been termed “second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.” A lawyer is often the only person who could thread the labyrinth. Castro-O'Ryan v. INS, 821 F.2d 1415, 1419 (9 th Cir. 1987)
  • The statutory scheme defining and delimiting the rights of aliens is exceedingly complex. Courts and commentators have stated that the Immigration & Nationality Act resembles “King Mino's labyrinth in ancient Crete.” Chan v. Reno, 1997 U.S. Dist LEXIS 3016 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)
  • Every immigration benefit has its own rules, regulations, and procedures. Many are complex and time-consuming to adjudicate. Some are so difficult to process that specialists must handle them. (9/11 and Terrorist Travel, Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, at 98 (Aug. 21, 2004))
  • We are saddled with administering what my legal friends tell me is the most complicated set of laws in the nation. I am told it beats the tax code. And as the Immigration & Nationality Act, which you from time to time see fit to modify or add a layer or take one away, each application we receive seems to be slightly or largely different from the other. Six to seven million applications have to be administered – adjudicated – against a body of law that is very complex and sometimes contradicting each other. (Testimony of Eduardo Aguirre, Director, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, 109 th Congress, March 2006).
  • Leticia Cervantes de Hernandez has been in this country for twenty years, and perhaps even longer. On March 22, 2005, she was detained by special agents of Immigration & Customs Enforcement and now awaits removal. Cervantes de Hernandez filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, temporary restraining order, injunction, and declaratory judgment. Her case represents questions that must be answered by the complex, evolving, and sometimes ambiguous, area of immigration law. Cervantes de Hernandez v. Chertoff, 368 F. Supp. 2d 896, 898 (E.D. Wis. 2005)
  • Gonzalez asks this court to reverse the BIA's decision that held him ineligible for a waiver under INA 212(c), and to remand the case so that the BIA may determine whether the equities favor granting such a waiver, as the BIA itself suggested it might. Determining whether he is entitled to such relief requires me to visit a region of the law that has been described as “infinitely complex,” and has been compared unfavorably to the labyrinth of ancient Crete. Gonzalez v. INS, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21148 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 31, 2002)

So, there you have it. The next time you're confronted with an immigration question or issue, consider this: “It would seem that should be a simple issue with a clear answer, but this is immigration law where the issues are seldom simple and the answers are far from clear.” Alanis-Bustamante v. Reno, 201 F.34d 1303 (11th Cir. 2000)


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