By Felicia Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, June 13, 2011: The U.S. government is reinforcing what I have been saying in this column to immigrants all along, especially Haitians applying for Temporary Protected Status – Beware of Scammers!

The Departments of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, in collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission last week announced a historic nationwide Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law initiative to combat immigration services scams.

The campaign is set upon three pillars – enforcement, education and continued collaboration – designed to stop scams and prosecute those who are responsible; educate immigrants about these scams and how to avoid them; and inform immigrants about the legal immigration process and where to find legitimate legal advice and representation.

The departments are especially concerned about the “notarios” who pose as attorneys and process fraudulent immigration applications. As the federal government insists, “the wrong help can hurt” and lead to a delay in applications or petitions; cost unnecessary fees and possibly lead to deportation proceedings.

Notarios are not lawyers. They also are not valid accredited representatives approved by the U.S. government. Often, they use the term “notario publico” to advertise their services in the Hispanic community. That title is not recognized in the United States as it is in some Latin American countries.

While many legitimate community and religious organizations provide immigration-related services, non-lawyers who advertise as legal “consultants” or “notarios publicos” are not authorized or qualified to help with immigration law-related matters.
These notarios often take advantage of people from their own ethnic community. Some attempt to provide legal service, but are not competent. Still others will take your money without ever intending to file your documents or help you in any way. Don’t let them harm you and your family!

“Notarios and other illegal immigration service providers take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants trying to navigate the immigration system,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director, John Morton. “ICE will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to combat notario fraud and protect the integrity of the legal immigration system.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services unveiled a new education campaign to urge immigrants to beware.

“We are dedicated to protecting vulnerable immigrants from those who seek to exploit them,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Through our sustained outreach, enforcement and education efforts, and our close collaboration with our federal, state, and local partners, we will provide the communities we serve with the help needed to combat this pernicious problem.”
For more information about USCIS’s education visit www.uscis.gov, backslashavoidscams.

Remember only a licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist you with your immigration case or green card application. Unlike consultants, immigration lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. You can check whether an immigration lawyer is in good standing and licensed by contacting your state bar or state Supreme Court at .
You can also check to see if the immigration lawyer has been suspended or expelled from practice before the immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), or the immigration service (USCIS) at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/discipline.htm. If you need help finding a qualified immigration lawyer in your area, you can contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) online at www.ailalawyer.com.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.

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