National Initiative to Combat Immigration Services Fraud

The U.S. government unveiled  a multi-agency, nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) 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 United States 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, DOJ has worked with investigators at the FBI, 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 over $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 who had posed as an attorney and processed more than 3,000 fraudulent immigration applications.

Meanwhile, FTC has made it easier for consumers to alert law enforcement about these scams by creating a new Immigration Services code in the Consumer Sentinel Network, its online consumer complaint database.

The initiative’s education component will focus on empowering immigrant communities to avoid unscrupulous individuals and businesses engaged in UPIL. USCIS’s efforts will be primarily aimed at providing immigrants with the information they need to make informed choices when seeking legal advice and representation on immigration matters, and reminding them that The Wrong Help Can Hurt.

USCIS unveiled a new brochure, a poster, public service announcements for use on radio and in print publications, billboard and transit ads, and a new Web resource center that includes a video. All printed materials are available in English and Spanish, and materials in 12 additional languages are available online. To bolster this outreach effort, DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and FTC will produce and distribute educational materials for different populations that may be affected by immigration services scams.

To watch an informative video our law firm produced on the subject of ‘notarios’, please click HERE.