- Person needs immigration help.
- Person finds “help” from someone claiming to be qualified – a notario, for example.
- Person loses a whole lot of money – and possibly the chance to immigrate – because the notario charged them but did nothing. Or charged them and did everything wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s a story we hear often from legal services, attorneys general, other federal agencies, and community partners across the country.
And now, we’ve heard of a new bottom-feeding twist on this scheme: Not content to advertise their services in shop windows or local papers, notarios now are visiting federal detention facilities, promising the world to people who’ve been detained on immigration-related charges. People in detention, who often are in great need of help, trust notarios and pay them exorbitant amounts of money. If they’re lucky, it could help – but, usually, they get nothing in return. Or worse, they get bad advice that leaves them worse off than when they started.
“Talk about a captive audience,” says Joel Cruz-Esparza with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office. “These folks are down on their luck, and the last thing they need is for a fast talking con artist to make them a bunch of bogus promises and take their last dollar.”
So what to do? Spread the word. People in the immigration process need good, clear information about what to do and who can help. Start here. Order these free materials in many languages and send them to anyone who can get the information into the hands of people who need it.
And then report the bad guys. We want to bring cases against them and shut them down. And so do the Attorneys General. And US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). And the Department of Justice. We talk to each other and share consumer complaints, so let us know when you see this kind of behavior.