There are few translation discrepancies that do as much damage as the difference between public notaries and “notario publico.” In Latin American nations, a “notario publico” is a highly-qualified legal official, roughly equivalent to a lawyer (but nearly on par with a judge by American standards). These people are appointed by the government and must undergo years of post-graduate education before become certified.
Their authority includes the ability to:
- Give legal advice
- Prepare documents
- Represent clients
- Ensure legal compliance
- Collect taxes (in Mexico)
In America, however, public notaries are forbidden from readying legal documents or offering any legal advice. That hasn’t stopped shady public notaries in the U.S. from taking advantage of the cultural mistranslation and receiving money in exchange for illegally offering their services. Immigrants who arrive in the U.S. looking for a path to citizenship or permanent residency are encouraged to pay exorbitant sums to frauds who cannot help them.
Robbing Immigrants of Time & Money
The practice has a name—notario fraud—and it’s causing irreparable damage to the futures of entire immigrant communities. In Virginia, a notario named Luis Ramirez has taken thousands of dollars from members of the Latino community by promising to help with deportation proceedings and criminal charges. Ramirez is directly responsible for at least two men’s jail time and deportation (respectively).
Undocumented immigrants often have extremely limited time and money—notario “services” consume both. More importantly, cleaning up after a notario’s fraud is sometimes impossible. The man that was deported as a result of Luis Ramirez’ actions cannot be helped. It’s a dangerous enough practice that New Mexico and Texas forbid the use of the term “notario publico” in notary advertisements.
New Jersey Protections Against Notario Fraud
In New Jersey, the Consumer Fraud Act allows the Attorney General to levy financial penalties against notario fraud (and provides both civil recourse and criminal punishment against perpetrators). The state’s laws regarding the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) also includes a passage specifically discussing “immigration consultants.”
In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo funded the hiring of more immigration attorneys to help combat notario fraud as well. The following year, Texas levied nearly one million dollars in civil penalties against notario businesses. Combined with the end of DACA as we know it, the era of the notario business is (hopefully) over. At the same time, our state governments need to remain vigilant against people who want to take advantage of our most vulnerable community members. Fraudulent services thrive where there aren’t measures to prevent them from forming.
Get Help from a New Jersey Immigration Lawyer
At my firm, The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett, Esq., P.C., I have helped thousands of people with their immigration matters. Since 1987, I have protected the future for immigrants by helping them obtain permanent residency, navigate criminal charges, avoid deportation, or secure citizenship. Unlike a notario, I have the experience and legal knowledge to craft the best solution for your case.
Call (800) 909-8129 for a review of your case—I’m happy to answer your questions and provide you with the first steps toward a better future.