Legislative Updates: 113th Congress
Rep. Ted Deutch Co-Introduces the Protecting Immigrants From Legal Exploitation Act of 2013
Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) have introduced the Protecting Immigrants from Legal Exploitation Act to shield immigrants from fraudulent and unethical legal representation. The legislation outlines specific penalties for “notarios” who intentionally mislead immigrants by providing fraudulent services. It also provides immigrants with the opportunity to resubmit application materials completed by fraudulent attorneys.
“Notarios” or “immigration consultants” have become an increasingly serious problem in immigrant communities throughout the United States. Often using false advertising and fraudulent contracts, notarios claim to be qualified to help immigrants obtain lawful status, or perform legal functions such as drafting wills or other legal documents. Unethical notarios may charge a significant amount of money for help they never provide. Often, victims permanently lose opportunities to pursue legal status because a notario has damaged their case. Studies, such as one published in 2004 by the Harvard Latino Law Review, have reported that nearly 1 in 2 asylum seekers and 1 in 4 Mexican-American immigrant households have used fraudulent attorneys. Numbers may be even higher as many issues go unreported.
"Fraud schemes in providing legal services to immigrants has been a serious problem in almost every state, but especially in Florida," said Congressman Deutch. "These scam artists prey on immigrants due to the lack of affordable legal services, the complexity of our immigration system's laws, and their lack of familiarity with our legal system. I am pleased to join my friend Congressman Bill Foster to introduce this legislation, which will crack down on a growing legal crisis facing our country."
For those who create schemes to provide fraudulent immigration services, this legislation imposes a fine, a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years, or both. In addition, those who misrepresent themselves as an attorney in any matter related to federal immigration law will receive a fine, a prison sentence of up to 15 years, or both. In both cases, the fraudulent immigration service provider must also reimburse their client for any services they fraudulently provided. The legislation also provides grant funding to disseminate information on avoiding fraudulent legal services and support non-profits that provide legal services to immigrants. A 2013 report from Georgetown Law School’s Community Justice Project reported that as high as 80% of non-citizens have unmet legal needs.
To read more about H.R. 2936, click here.