‘Notario’ Industry Targeted by Attorney General
Rob McKenna, the Washington State Attorney General, has requested legislators to pass a bill that would prevent people who are not licensed to practice law from giving out any legal advice pertaining to immigration.
State laws allow non-attorneys who were able to register as an immigration assistant with the state to complete forms on someone else’s behalf. However, these assistants, known in Spanish as notarios publicos, end up giving legal advice.
If the state Legislature looks favorably on the state AG’s request, it would put the quasi-legal assistants “out of the immigration business.”
According to Pasco attorney Tom Roach, a notario public in Mexico is an attorney; but in the US, all it means is someone that is over 18 years old, a US citizen, has paid the filing fee, and found 10 people who are willing to declare he or she is a moral person.
Roach said that immigrants who come to the US often believe they are getting a trained immigration lawyer but in reality, they are not.
Roach also said that he did not consider notarios as a problem until immigration laws 15 years ago started to become more complex. A slight mistake can result in deportation.
A federal law, enacted in 1997, created penalties for staying in the country illegally, and also barred people from re-entering America legally for 3 years, 10 years or life.
“Being legal is not simply being married to a US citizen,” said Roach. His office handles some 500 cases of Mexican nationals who are married to US citizens. Under the current law, however, many of them are not eligible for US citizenship.
An immigration attorney for 28 years now, Roach said he helped draft the bill and was responsible for bringing the matter about the “notarios” to McKenna 3 years ago.