In Face of ICE Raids, Not Everyone Gets Quality Legal Advice

By Andrew Leonatti on July 19, 2019

President Trump’s promised raids in select cities by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel has understandably sent a jolt of anxiety through immigrant communities nationwide.

While Trump praised the raids as “very successful,” immigrants’ rights advocates say what has happened so far has not matched the hype. But administration officials said because these are targeted raids there will not be an overwhelming show of force, and that the raids will likely keep going in the coming days.

ICE contends that the goal of the raids will be to look for about 2,000 undocumented immigrants who have deportation orders against them. Many immigrants, both documented and undocumented, however, have little trust that ICE is being truthful. And that fear of being caught in a big immigration sweep could lead many to seek advice from the wrong people about what to do.

Notarios vs. Lawyers

In Latin American communities in cities across the U.S., you are likely to see numerous businesses known as “Notarios Publicos.” In American English, a “notary public” is someone who serves as an official witness to the signing of official documents and contracts.

In Mexico and other Latin American countries, however, a notario publico is someone licensed to practice law. This difference in translations often leaves many Spanish-speaking immigrants here in the U.S. the victims of fraudulent notarios who claim they can provide legal assistance with immigration matters. It is important to state that in the United States, the only person licensed to give legal advice is a lawyer. A notario publico does not have that right.

Immigrant advocates warn that many turn to these notarios in trying times like these because they feel more comfortable with someone who speaks Spanish and charges less than a licensed immigration lawyer.

What You Should Look For

But many notarios, even those who really want to help their communities, do not have the same knowledge of the U.S. immigration system as licensed lawyers. And a simple mistake on any of your paperwork could cause you to miss an appointment with ICE officials and land you in even more trouble.

If you need legal assistance in relation to your immigration status, keep the following in mind:

  • Ask any lawyer for proof that they are a member of their state’s bar association.
  • Do not hire anyone who guarantees you good results. Lawyers are not allowed to guarantee results in the U.S.
  • Do not sign any blank forms.
  • Do not sign any forms that you do not understand.
  • Keep copies of all of your records.

It’s true that turning to a qualified immigration lawyer for help may not get you the result you are hoping for. But a good lawyer will help you do everything correctly, putting you in the best position for a positive outcome.  

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