With the new and exciting laws for undocumented individuals that President Obama announced last month, comes a warning for unsuspecting families who may be headed for sham and unethical “notarios.” It is vital that anyone seeking to benefit from the new laws that could potentially grant status, must consult with a reputable and well established immigration attorney. Only that way the individual’s particular set of circumstances can be evaluated before filing for a benefit that he or she may not be eligible for.

The first problem and confusion can stem from a language and translation difference. In Mexico, a “notario public” is an accredited, legal professional. In the United States the designation of “notary public” is nothing close to that description, as virtually anyone can obtain a notary certificate. The language trick is so common that the state of Texas does not allow the translation for “Notary Public” to Spanish.

Throughout the years, there has been a lot of attention to promote anti-notario fraud and several non-profit agencies continue to work together to get the word out to the undocumented community that they should not put their trust in or give any money to these so called “notarios.” Immigrant families have lost thousands and sometimes even their life’s savings to these unethical scammers.

There have been thousands of documented cases where unwitting families hired “notarios” to process their immigration paperwork. Often, the “notarios” file applications that the individual is not eligible for and once it is denied, the unsuspecting individual finds themselves being detained and deported by The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. Sometimes, these “notarios” work under the auspices of a “lawyer” or “paralegal.” Sometimes they work under the name of an out-of-state attorney. This is commonly practiced because the immigration laws are federal and do not require a license in the state where the attorney may be practicing. There have been thousands of cases where these offices have promised to file immigration documents, but never do. They’ve kept the legal fees that they charged in addition to the fees that were meant for the government filing fees. Often individuals have missed out on opportunities that were available to them, that no longer are, when a “notario” mishandled the case and did not file applications on time.

Many times undocumented individuals are wary about reporting what these “notarios” have done to them if they have no lawful immigration status in the United States. These individuals are afraid to come forward and file a complaint because they fear for their own anonymity. They are left without hope and without most of their hard earned money they saved in order to establish immigration status in the United States.

With the new change in immigration policy, it is expected that even more unscrupulous “notarios” will spring forward and advertise in immigrant communities, hoping to prey on an under-educated or non-English speaking clientele.

It is essential that the message needs to continue to get out to these communities that undocumented individuals who wish to come forward and benefit from the new laws, need to see an accredited and reputable immigration lawyer or immigration law firm.