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Beware of Notaries/ Cuidado con Notarios

It has recently come to our attention that a local organization in Charlotte has been telling people that Deferred Action for undocumented youth is fast coming to an end. According to this organization, the deadline for deferred action is February 28. This caused many people in the community to feel concern. Since this issue has been brought to light, thankfully this organization has taken this message off of their FB page. They have even gone so far as to publicly state that it was an error and apologized.

For the record, there is NO DEADLINE for deferred action for undocumented youth.

Whether the message was intentional or not, the fact remains that there are many organizations and businesses in our community that take advantage of immigrants. The most vile offender is the notario.

Unlike a notary in the United States, a notario in Latin America is someone who can give legal advice and in many cases is a high ranking official who has legal skills and training. A notary in the U.S, on the other hand can only witness parties signing documents, make copies of documents, and administer oaths in some places.

Many small businesses claiming to be notarios have sprung up all over the U.S. where there are large immigrant populations from Latin America. They claim to be certified notaries that offer more services in much the same tradition as their counterparts in Latin America.

I am writing this blog post not to call out any specific organization, but to warn people about this type of behavior in general. According to the American Bar Association:

Unscrupulous “notarios” or “immigration consultants” have become an increasingly serious problem in immigrant communities throughout the United States. Often using false advertising and fraudulent contracts, notarios hold themselves out as qualified to help immigrants obtain lawful status, or perform legal functions such as drafting wills or other legal documents. Unethical notarios may charge a lot of money for help that they never provide. Often, victims permanently lose opportunities to pursue immigration relief because a notario has damaged their case. The Commission is working to provide immigrant communities with information about this dangerous practice, and to support advocates who represent victims.

Notarios are a huge problem in the immigrant community. They take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants who see them as a trusted person from the community. Often, notarios offer many services like helping you fill our your rental lease, finding airline tickets, and giving legal advice without actually having a degree or certificate. They also charge a huge amount for services. Immigrants see them as a one-stop place for help. In many cases, the notarios don't get the job done and keep the immigrant's money. These victims of unscrupulous behaviors are left with their issues unresolved their money lost.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of legislation to address this type of fraud. North Carolina has some of the best predatory lending laws in the country and takes fraud seriously. Yet, this specific industry has been left virtually untouched.

What we as a community need to do is come together and not allow this type of behavior to go unchecked. We need to work on legislation that will either put notarios out of business or greatly restricts them in what they do, with stronger penalties for the type of fraud they commit.

This is an organizing opportunity that we should all take advantage of. If anyone reading this blog knows of any notario fraud or knows of anyone who has been taken advantage of by a notario, please follow this link and tell your story. Based on the reactions we get, we will decide where to go from there.

In the meantime, avoid going to notarios or anyone claiming to help you with your deferred action requests without first investigating whether they are certified. You can call the United State Citizenship and immigration Service at 1-800-375-5283 to inquire about who is certified or visit USCIS' DACA page to learn more about the DACA process and guidelines. The first step to stopping this abuse is to educate yourself and others.

For more on notarios abuse, please visit the Amercan Bar Association's Fight Notario Fraud page and and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

If you would like to get organized around this issue or there is something else that worries you in your community, please feel free to contact Action NC at info@actionnc.org