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Government warns immigrants of phony lawyers

Immigration attorneys are known for providing vital help to immigrants. However, some people are taking advantage of the trust people have for immigration attorneys as part of a scam. Luckily, a new campaign is underway designed to protect the rights of immigrants and shield them from scam artists posing as immigration lawyers.

Unfortunately, many immigrants have been victimized after hiring "fake lawyers" to help them gain legal status in the United States. The phony lawyers have been known to charge the immigrants legal fees then lead them through legal proceedings that often result in deportation proceedings.

Claiming that he was an expert in immigration law with more than 20 years of experience, one fake lawyer with a criminal record charged 14 immigrants from Guyana over $75,000 for legal advice. By the time he was stopped by local authorities, most of the 14 immigrants were in deportation proceedings. The phony lawyer received a prison term of two years for his actions.

The campaign is also meant to help immigrants confused about the role of "notaries," who function as a type of accountant in some Latin American countries. Notarios are allowed to perform some legal functions in their home countries, but are not allowed to offer legal services to immigrants in the United States, the campaign warns.

The campaign, led by the Obama administration, represents the first time there has been a coordinated effort among state and federal agencies to crackdown on fake immigration lawyers and to offer legitimate aid to immigrant organizations.

It is hoped that the effort will reduce the number of court appeals from immigrants by helping them avoid trouble when they choose incompetent and fake lawyers to manage their immigration cases.

When you hire a lawyer to help guide you through the legal immigration process, make sure it is someone you can trust. Make sure that the attorney has a law degree from a reputable school of law, and confirm that the attorney is licensed to practice law in the state that you are in. Real attorneys will be happy to prove these things to you.

Source: New York Times, "New Effort to Protect Immigrants From Tricks," Julia Preston, 6/9/2011.

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