Los Angeles County cracks down on fraudulent immigration consultants

Supervisors in Los Angeles County, California yesterday voted 5-0 to direct county officials to draft an ordinance that will create licensing requirements for anyone purporting to be an immigration consultant, a move intended to fight “notario fraud.”

Treasurer-tax collector, consumer affairs and county legal departments have 90 days to give the Board of Supervisors a proposed ordinance to license and regulate immigration consultants. The new ordinance would mean immigration consultants, including those known as notaries or notarios, would have to comply with state law prohibiting them from offering legal services or providing legal advice.

Proponents claim that many immigration consultants are violating the statute by providing legal advice, thereby compromising the integrity of the immigration system since these consultants send applications that are either improperly prepared or outright fraudulent to the immigration courts or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis drafted the motion for the ordinance. Solis claimed that immigrants unfamiliar with the legal system in the U.S. or who do not speak English are particularly vulnerable to the scams run by these unscrupulous consultants.

Solis also said that fraudulent immigration consultants prey on immigrants from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. Notarios in some areas of Latin America have training as legal professionals, but that is not the case in the U.S., a fact many immigrants do not know.

The county supervisors modeled the proposed regulations on similar ones currently used in Chicago, Illinois.