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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AG HEALEY’S OFFICE LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN ABOUT PERVASIVE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LAW PRACTICES

AG HEALEY’S OFFICE LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN ABOUT PERVASIVE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LAW PRACTICESCampaign Uses Social Media, Multilingual PSAs, and a Website to Educate Residents About “Notario Fraud”
BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today launched an education campaign to protect residents from falling victim to the unauthorized practice of immigration law, a widespread scam also known as “notario fraud.”
            The educational multilingual campaign, which is being run by the AG’s Community Engagement and Civil Rights Divisions, aims to provide people with the tools they need to protect themselves

“Far too often, residents seeking legal assistance are being cheated by individuals who aren’t authorized to practice law, and being charged hundreds or thousands of dollars for services that are worthless,” said AG Healey. “This practice is illegal and my office is working to educate residents across the state about how to recognize and avoid these scam artists.”

As part of its education campaign, the AG’s Office will be reaching out directly to immigrant communities using social media, multilingual PSAs, a targeted website – created by the AG’s Office in English, Portuguese and Spanish – and posters (in English,PortugueseSpanishHaitian Creole, and Russian) with helpful tips. The AG’s Office will also be working in partnership with the AG’s Advisory Council on New Americans to hold community presentations on how individuals can avoid falling victim to these illegal practices. 
The AG’s Office is urging residents to take the following precautionary steps to avoid notario fraud:
·         Make sure your lawyer is licensed. Only a licensed attorney – or someone specially authorized by the federal government can:
o   Represent you in court or before an administrative judge.
o   Advise you as to whether or not you should apply for benefits or protections.
o   Explain your legal options and give you legal advice.
·         Never pay for any immigration forms. They are available for free.
·         Never leave your lawyer’s office without receipts for all payments.
·         Never sign a blank form.
·         Keep all your original personal documents.
·         Get copies of everything.
The AG’s Office has taken previous action against individuals for the unauthorized practice of immigration law.

In September 2016, Gerson Barahona, a Waltham man was ordered by a judge to pay more than $155,000 in restitution to victims, civil penalties and attorney’s fees after he falsely held himself out as an attorney specializing in immigration law and unlawfully charged individuals hundreds or thousands of dollars for legal advice and services. The AG’s Office sought and obtained a preliminary injunction in December 2014 that ordered Barahona to stop providing any services related to immigration matters.
The launch of this campaign is part of an ongoing effort by AG Healey to ensure that her office is a resource and advocate for the immigrant community.

Last week, the AG’s Office issued a guide to help parents in the event of sudden detention or deportation by federal immigration officials. The AG’s guide, available in SpanishPortugueseHaitian Creole and Englishprovides information to parents who are concerned about their immigration status, understand different options for care and custody of a child who remains in the US following parental detention or deportation.
Last year, the AG’s Office sent an advisory to local public school districts reminding them of their obligation under state and federal law to provide all students with equal access to primary and secondary education. The AG’s Office also issued guidance to health care providers and local public school districts on immigration enforcement, and an advisory to public and private colleges and universities on issues that may affect immigrant students.
To learn more about the AG’s campaign visit www.mass.gov/guides/avoiding-immigration-scams
To report notario fraud, call the AG’s Civil Rights Division at (617) 963-2917.

To view this press release in Spanish click here. To view this release in Portugueseclick here.

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