Immigration is one of the most complex areas of law in the United States. It takes years for attorneys to learn the tools of this trade and even then, no immigration attorney can competently practice every area within the broad body of what is immigration law.
It's surprising then to find out that notarios or persons without even a legal education often represent clients to their detriment in immigration cases. Indeed, unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and notario fraud is rampant in California and beyond.
Notarios make promises that they cant keep, charge less, and aren't accountable to the inevitable disastrous results they obtain for their clients because they are not regulated. It's a perfect trap!
In my 20 years of immigration law practice, I've unfortunately seen too many cases that have been damaged beyond repair by a notario. It's devastating to see a family separated because of the outcome on a case that should have never been filed or was never adequately supported by evidence. Many cases aren't even salvageable by an appeal because either the filing deadlines have passed or they'd be prohibitively too expensive for clients.
There are some easy steps to follow to protect you from UPL.
1. Make sure you are dealing with a licensed attorney;
2. Check the state bar website to see if he/she has ever been disciplined for unethical conduct (In California - visit www.calbar.org)
3. Check with the local bar associations for a referral list. (In LA - visit www.lacba.org)
4. Ask your friends and colleagues for references.
If you've been a victim of UPL, file a complaint with your Attorney General's office. In CA, visit https://oag.ca.gov.