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Notario fraud and the DACA process

By Christina Amaya, Editorial Intern
June 30, 2014

Notario fraud is a problem that constantly haunts that immigrant community in Charlotte. While waiting for immigration reform, many times, some members of the immigrant community resort to notarios in hopes of beginning the process towards legalization and end up deceived. Scam artists prey on hopeful people and promise to expedite their immigration process, they ensure clients that there will be no risk, and they even charge extremely high amounts of money to fill out immigration documents.

In Latin American countries, a notario is a person who has studied law at a university. They are authorized to represent their clients before the government. Many times they are professionals who have the same authority as an attorney and are trained to provide legal services.

On the contrary, in the United States, a notary public does not have the capacity to represent his/her clients in legal matters. Notary publics are people appointed by the state and are limited to primarily witnessing the signing of important documents and administering oaths. They cannot give legal advice or fill out legal forms or documents, yet some go so far as to advertise themselves as experts in legal issues, including immigration.

The problem arises when people are appointed as notary publics and they deceive members of the immigrant community. These businesses make believe that they are authorized to give legal counseling and legal services when in reality they are not.

It is important to note that according to North Carolina law, it is unlawful for a notary public to appear as an attorney of the law or legal counselor in any legal act before any judicial body without a license and without being a part of the Bar Association in the State of North Carolina. Only lawyers with a license issued in the United States and with authorization by the State Bar are capable of representing a client.

Additionally, the Board of Immigration (BIA) has accredited representatives that are authorized to represent clients in immigration cases. These representatives should work for a non-profit organization that must also be a recognized organization by the Board of Immigration and whose services are offered for free or at a low cost. The Latin American Coalition is a BIA accredited organization.

Last month, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began the process of renewals for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. With this process, comes the warning against potential scammers in the form of notarios, who may offer a young immigrant "help" with the DACA application process and charge large amounts of money for their services, which sometimes are not necessary. Notarios are not authorized to do this kind of work and they can cause serious and permanent damage to an immigration case.

"It's like entering a minefield," said Adriana Galvez Taylor, Director of the Rights For Immigrants program at the Latin American Coalition and a BIA accredited representative. "When people take their legal cases to a notario that does not have the experience nor the authorization to render advice, they ultimately cause permanent damage to these cases."

The Latin American Coalition is committed to helping young immigrants looking to apply for DACA or those who are wanting to renew. Our Immigration Legal Clinic offers low-cost DACA support, along with a range of other services, and this advice for seeking legal assistance from anyone in the community:

  • Make sure that your representative is authorized to practice law
  • Ask to see their membership of the State Bar
  • Ask to see the BIA reps order to practice, as well as the organizations recognition
  • Always ask questions about your case; it's your right!
  • Always obtain a receipt of all payments you make
  • Always keep a copy of all the documents in the case
  • Never leave original documents
  • Never sign incomplete forms or documents
  • Make sure you always understand a contract or any other legal document you have to sign, before you do so.

"It is in your best interest to always hire an accredited attorney or an accredited BIA rep", adds Galvez Taylor.

For more information about notario fraud or for more information about DACA, please call Maritza Solano at 704-941-2553.

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