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Baca amendment calls on government to investigate "notarios"

Location: Washington, DC

Baca amendment calls on government to investigate "notarios"

Washington - A provision by Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) was amended to the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, H.R. 1817, today that requires the department to collect data on immigration consultants and so-called "notarios" that engage in immigration fraud.

The amendment was offered on behalf of Rep. Baca by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), member of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, during a committee mark up of the legislation. Rep. Jackson-Lee is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims.

"Our immigration system is broken and needs reform. But we need real, substantive reform that provides long-term solutions. This provision is a step in the right direction," said Rep. Baca, who carried legislation in the 107th and 108th Congresses to address this problem.

"Notario" is the Spanish term for lawyer. Many non-lawyers refer to themselves as "notarios" to prey on Spanish speakers and illegally practice immigration law without a license. The problem has gone largely unnoticed due to the lack of any data on notarios from the Department of Homeland Security, or the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Notarios have been known to charge excessive fees for their services and mishandle or even lose important immigration documents. Their practices jeopardize immigrants' status because they lack substantive knowledge of relevant issues and are often unable to stay abreast of the frequent changes in immigration law.

"Immigration law is exceedingly complicated. The consequences of mistakes and missed deadlines are almost exclusively brought down upon the applicant, who may then be deported or lose the ability to file for another remedy. In essence, unscrupulous consultants often ‘deport their malpractice suits,'" said Rep. Baca.

The legislation now moves to the House floor, where it is expected to pass next week.

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