By: Ana Arellanos-Baeza, Legal Director
One of the first things our attorney covers with any client, or potential client, is the importance of avoiding Notarios and the dangers that they can pose. Unfortunately, not all clients take this conversation to heart, which can lead to disastrous results for their case. Notarios are people who commit the unlawful practice of law by preparing and filing Immigration Paperwork without being licensed attorneys. They get clients by claiming to offer lower prices than immigration attorneys. Often times, their fees are just as high as private attorneys and are never lower than those offered by the multiple non-profit agencies in the DFW area.
JFON-NCT has the policy that once a Notario gets involved in a client’s case, we can no longer represent that client. This protects the attorney and JFON from errors or misrepresentations that made by the Notario. Filing paperwork for a client requires an attorney to file a G-28 Notice of Appearance. This form notifies Immigration that the client is represented by an attorney, and if there are any issues with the client’s case, the attorney is on the hook to respond. We have no way of knowing what information the Notario includes in the application they file for the client, and we do not know if the information they submitted conflicts with the applications our organization files with Immigration. Because these discrepancies can cause issues down the line, our organization has to make the determination to withdraw from a case or to keep it on.
JFON took on the Humanitarian case of a young lady who had been the victim of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, the back log on her case type means that it will take many years for it to be processed. During the initial consultation, we identified her as a potential DACA recipient, if the program was reopened. In the meantime, we filed her U-Visa case and asked her to keep in contact with us. The DACA program opened back up and we reached out to her to inquire if she wanted to apply for it as we were waiting for U-Visa case to be processed. She informed us that she had gone to her “tax guy” and that he had offered to file the DACA case for her. He is not an attorney, but since he was a friend of her family, she thought it was ok. The DACA program was put on hold by a Texas Judge, so her application will be denied. She has now lost her fee and has provided information to Immigration that may conflict with that provided in her U-Visa case, putting that in danger of also being denied.
This is an unfortunate example of how Notarios infiltrate the immigrant community and the negative impact they have on our clients. This young lady’s U-Visa case is still pending, and hopefully no harm was done to her case by the DACA application that was filed.