Congress Considers Bills Targeting Notarios, Other Immigration Scammers

"Congress might address the issue as part of proposed immigration reforms that could expand protections against con-artists offering help to those seeking citizenship.  “This is a foreseeable problem,” said Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois, who introduced a bill that calls for a fine and up to 10 to 15 years in federal prison for fraudulently offering immigration legal services.  There is no federal statute that specifically addresses the unauthorized practice of immigration law, though the U.S. Department of Justice said federal authorities are able to prosecute using other statutes.  Experts say putting a specific federal law on the books would be an effective deterrent in places where local authorities don’t have the resources to handle the extra workload.  They say nonlawyers who attempt to handle complex cases can ruin the singular opportunity an immigrant has for immigration benefits, and, in the worst cases, they can get their clients deported.  “Many of these people are nonlawyers — or notaries — who just kind of come out of the woodwork at a time when it seems convenient,” said Doug Stump, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  Nonprofit groups that aid immigrants find legal help say the problem is made worse because the nonprofits don’t have the resources to help everyone.  And those who are turned away because they don’t qualify for certain programs often find notaries willing to offer promises they can’t keep." - Associated Press, Sept. 8, 2013.