Ann Elise McCaffrey, Esq.


from the world of immigration law and defense

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Protect Yourself from Immigration Attorney or Notario Fraud

Avoid the Immigration Attorneys Who Lie, Cheat and Steal – Protect Yourself from Immigration Attorney Fraud

In New York, many people take advantage of immigrants fighting to stay in the United States. Some people falsely state that they are an immigration lawyer, some immigration lawyers charge thousands and thousands of dollars for simple applications, and worst of all, some immigration lawyers will mishandle a case and fail to protect their client from a deportation. In one famous New Yorker case, an immigration lawyer, who did all these things, was ordered to pay his former client 1.6 million dollars. The lawyer’s deceit and lies put his former client in immigration detention for 14 months! If you want to know how to avoid being a victim of an immigration scam, read on. If you have already dealt with a dishonest immigration attorney or a notario, skip to the last half of this post.  

Don’t be a victim immigration scams – always do these things:

1 Research an immigration attorney online and see what other clients say. Find out where your immigration attorney is licensed (what state) and check their registration status. For New York, check here. You can simply ask, “where did you get your law license?” You need to know if the immigration attorney has a law license in good standing.

2 Never hire anyone for you case who is not an immigration attorney. For a paralegal to handle your case, he or she must work directly under the supervision of an immigration attorney. Find out if someone is a lawyer or a paralegal. An immigration attorney must review your case. There are laws in New York that make it a crime for someone to say that they are an immigration lawyer when they are not, and they can receive jail time and fines for doing so. Make sure you are not the victim of this crime!

3 Get a written agreement signed by your immigration attorney. This written agreement will tell you how much you are paying in legal fees and what the immigration attorney will do on your case. Ask how the immigration attorney will handle the case. Don’t be satisfied with someone who tells you “I will win your case” but cannot tell you how. Keep your own copy of the written agreement.

4 Save all your receipts for all payments made to the immigration attorney. Do not pay attorneys in cash if they will not give you a receipt for your payment. The receipt should have the firm’s name, the date and the amount of the payment that you made.

5 Avoid meeting immigration attorneys in outside places, like a restaurant or café or on the street. Go to the immigration attorney’s office so you know the place of business. Look for a name plate or a sign with their name at the office. You are trusting this immigration attorney to handle an important part of your life so make sure you understand how to find him or her and where they have an office.

6 Do not just rely on what a friend or family member tells you about an immigration attorney. Always do your own research and always ask the immigration attorney all the important questions before you hire this person and pay them.

If you have already been scammed, or hired a dishonest attorney, then read this.

Know that you are not alone because this happens frequently. It is important for you to protect yourself, though, so here’s what you should know.

* Try to locate the notario or immigration attorney. You will have to call, send a letter and go to their office. Ask what is going on with your case and ask for a copy of the file. Do not pay more money to this person or firm. You have a right to the contents of your case file without having to pay for it. (You may be charged a fee for copies but this should not be much).

* Call the Immigration Court Case Information Line at 1-800-898-7180. You will need to enter your A# if you know it. The case information line will tell you what has happened in your immigration court case, if you have one. Find out if you have an upcoming hearing before the immigration judge or maybe a deportation order. You might not have a case before the court at all, but it is better to check. You are required to attend every immigration court hearing.

* Report the fraud. If you were scammed by a notario or an immigrant services office, call (866) 390-2992 (the NY state fraud hotline) or 1-800-566-7636 (the NY state New Americans hotline).

* File a complaint against an Immigration Attorney by calling the number for the correct NY county here. For help in New York City, find more information here. Gather as many documents for your case as you can so you can show how the immigration attorney mishandled your case and how much money you lost.

* Talk to another immigration lawyer as soon as you can. Call for a consultation at my office or call one of the numbers above to ask how to speak to a trustworthy free immigration lawyer.

I have helped many clients whose prior attorneys made serious mistakes, like not going to court or filing the wrong motion or getting a deportation order in the case. I can help to see what you can do now to overcome the prior attorney’s, or notarios, errors.

Elise McCaffrey