LOS ANGELES –In the wake of increased action by Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers, City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced a multi-agency collaboration to educate the public on immigration consultants and to crack down on those who misrepresent the services they may provide under the law. As part of this effort, the City Attorney supports legislation proposed by City Councilwoman Nury Martinez to establish a permitting and enforcement system for immigration consultants.
"Immigration fraud schemes can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on families," said Feuer. "It’s especially important now, at a time of heightened anxiety in our immigrant communities, to prevent residents who turn to immigration consultants out of desperation from being victimized. My office will continue to work closely with our partners on the City Council and the County to safeguard families' dreams and hold accountable those who would prey on immigrants’ fears."
"During such uncertain times, it is unfathomable that people would take advantage of Angelenos who are just trying to take care of their families," said Councilwoman Nury Martinez. "By establishing a license for immigration consultants, we will be doing two things: Providing a resource of legitimate consultants for people to access; and giving the City the tools necessary to prevent more people from being victimized. Our number one goal must continue to be to protect families in Los Angeles."
"It is unfortunate that at a time when some of our most vulnerable Angelenos seek immigration advice, they find themselves victims of notario fraud and immigration consultant scams," stated Councilmember Gil Cedillo. "I thank City Attorney Mike Feuer for his leadership and educational campaign, and Councilwoman Nury Martinez for her motion to regulate notarios in the City of Los Angeles. People's lives are at stake especially under the Presidency of Donald Trump, and anyone seeking to profit from these misfortunes should be ashamed of themselves," added Cedillo.
"Fraudulent immigration consultants and 'notarios' take advantage of the most vulnerable residents in Los Angeles County," said County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs Director Brian J. Stiger. "We stand together with City Attorney Mike Feuer and other partners to fight all types of fraud affecting immigrants."
The motion, presented by Councilmember Martinez and supported by Feuer and Cedillo, calls for the development of an immigration consultant licensing process through the Office of Finance that will monitor and identify consultants as well as fund investigations. Enforcement and citation of businesses not in compliance with the law would be done by the City Attorney in coordination with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (LACBCA). The motion would also require all immigration consultants and notaries to comply with all provisions of the California Immigration Consultant Act in order to curb immigration services fraud.
Under current regulations, immigration consultants are not lawyers and have a very limited and specific role in helping someone complete the process to change their immigration status. The limited services immigration consultants can offer include completing immigration forms but can’t tell consumers which forms they need, translating answers without advising consumers what answers to provide, securing supporting documents, submitting forms and making free referrals to licensed attorneys.
The City Attorney and LACBCA have partnered to enforce current laws governing immigration consultants. There are currently several referrals from LACBCA that the City Attorney is reviewing. There is also an ongoing case against Eddie Bonilla, a notario, set for trial next week that alleges violations of unlicensed practice of immigration law that was investigated by LADCBA.
Immigration consultants must give customers a written contract, in English and in the consumer’s language that gives customers a three-day right to cancel it without any charge. Immigration consultants must also post signs to make it clear that they are not licensed attorneys, and they must tell customers that they can’t provide legal advice.
Support for new legislation calling for licensing of consultants is part of an ongoing and comprehensive enforcement and education campaign spearheaded by City Attorney Feuer, the LA County Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, and legal aid organizations to address immigration scams. Individuals who believe they have been a victim of immigration scams should contact the DCBA at (800) 593-8222, or file a complaint DCBA’s website.