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Friday, June 18, 2004

Immigrants tricked by false immigration advice

Immigrants tricked by false immigration advice

Lawyers say immigrants are being tricked by some local businesses who claim to provide legal immigration services, but don't provide immigrants what they pay for.

All over Tucson's Southside, you can see signs that say "Notary Public".

In America, that's essentially a person who can verify the authenticity of signatures. In Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries, however, a "Notario Publico" is actually a state-appointed lawyer.

The similarity in their titles, is confusing to some immigrants.

"They immediately associate the duties and responsibilities of a Mexican qualified notario publico with these simple notary publics that we have in the United States," says Immigration attorney Jesus Romo.

Romo says some of the American notary publics are taking advantage of the confusion.

He says they offer legal advice regarding the immigration process for the customers and their families, even though they're not qualified to do so.

"Then they get the wrong advice or the wrong service, and they could lose many things, like a chance to become a U.S. citizen," says Romo.

Carlos Arias owns a notary public business on South 12th Avenue. He says he has never offered such illegal advice, but knows that others have.

"I think there's still a few people who do it, and they charge them a lot of money for the service," says Arias.

In order to avoid these scams, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency recommends that immigrants seek help only from licensed attorneys or accredited organizations, many of which offer their services free of charge.

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