In Latin American countries, the term “notario public” means a college-educated professional in the legal field, qualified to practice law. But here in the U.S., groups of fake notarios public — the English translation — are anything but helpful to immigrants seeking help gaining legal citizenship. Those who need legal assistance on immigration matters should seek the help of a qualified, licensed immigration attorney for advice.
Hurting Our Immigrant Population
These notarios public scammers often pose as attorneys and offer undocumented immigrants help in establishing their U.S. residency. Typically, notarios public are Spanish-speaking and familiar with the immigration process, which makes it easier for them to take advantage of the Spanish-speaking community seeking assistance with that process.
Scamming By Offering Immigration Help
Since an estimated 210,000 undocumented immigrants are living in Nevada, notarios have a lot of vulnerable individuals to choose from. The scammers often claim they can offer these immigrants temporary work permits, eventually leading to legal U.S. residency. Individuals who fall prey to the notarios end up paying them thousands of dollars for their chance at residency.
Even sadder, the scammers often submit the immigrants’ paperwork to the authorities, which sometimes leads to court summons and even deportation.
How the Immigration Scheme Works
Las Vegas immigration attorney David Walters describes the typical scheme as unfolding like this: notarios promise work authorizations for their clients and file an asylum application for them. The notario lists his own address as the undocumented immigrants’ address so that the notice for the interview goes to the notario.
After the immigrant fails to appear for the interview, the asylum application is denied by the government and a hearing is scheduled. Of course, scheduling details for the hearing are sent to the notario’s address, so the client also fails to appear at the hearing. At that point, they’re ordered: “deported in absentia.”
On March 6th of this year, the Nevada Attorney General’s office issued a warning to the public regarding notario scams. Only licensed attorneys and people accredited by the U.S. Board of Immigration appeals can legally offer immigration assistance; anyone else offering help is doing so unlawfully.