Photo: Crackdown on Notarios by ICE
The U.S. government unveiled today a multi-agency, nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams . The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are leading this historic effort.
This initiative targets immigration scams involving the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL), which occurs when legal advice and/or representation regarding immigration matters is provided by an individual who is not an attorney or accredited representative.
This initiative is set upon three pillars—enforcement, education and continued collaboration—designed to stop UPIL 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 Department of Justice, through U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Civil Division’s Office of Consumer Protection Litigation, is investigating and prosecuting dozens of cases against so-called “notarios.” In the last year, the department has worked with investigators at the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and USCIS, and with state and local partners, to secure convictions—with sentences up to eight years in prison and forfeiture and restitution of more than $1.8 million. This is in addition to the many actions at the state and local levels that have been filed against individuals and businesses engaged in immigration services scams.
ICE has also long been pursuing immigration services fraud cases in part through its 18 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force offices across the country. In a recent case in West Palm Beach, Fla., ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested an individual on May 26, 2011, who had posed as an attorney and processed more than 3,000 fraudulent immigration applications.