Democrats Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Bill Foster (D-IL) have introduced a bill increasing penalties for “notarios” – non-lawyers holding themselves out as attorneys or able to offer legal services. Notario fraud has been a problem in the US for decades and is increasing with the prospects for deferred action getting closer. The bill, entitled the “Protecting Immigrants 5 From Legal Exploitation Act of 2015,” would create a federal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison for individuals who executes a fraudulent scheme in connection with an immigration matter. Falsely claiming to be an attorney or accredited representative would be separately punishable by up to 15 years in prison. And victims would be entitled to reimbursement for any payments made to the notario.
The bill would also provide further relief to notario victims by allowing them to withdraw or correct – without penalty – applications filed by a notario. And those currently subject to the 3 and 10 year bars that were triggered as a result of leaving due to a notario’s advice would not be subject to 3 and 10 year bars.
The Congressman put out a joint press release and had this to say on the legislation:
“With the implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at hand, it is critical that we work to combat notario fraud,” said Foster. “This legislation will help protect immigrants from exploitation from fraudulent ‘notarios’ who are taking advantage of our broken immigration system. Not only do ‘notarios’ exploit immigrants for money, but their false services can, and many times have, resulted in well-meaning immigrants being deported because they didn’t receive accurate information on the immigration process. We must do more to stop these predators who are exploiting immigrants attempting to play by the rules.”
“Our broken immigration system has invited scam artists to take advantage of immigrants who are trying to navigate our complex legal system,” said Congressman Deutch. “This legislation will go after fake attorneys who pose as ‘notarios,’ charge money for fraudulent legal services, and leave immigrants and their families to deal with the consequences. I am pleased to join my friend Congressman Bill Foster to introduce this legislation, which will crack down on a growing legal crisis facing our country.”