The Federal Trade Commission released a notice May 18 warning people of immigration scams as Title 42 ends.
“When there are big changes that lead to confusion, scammers prosper pretty much always,” noted the FTC. “So, as Title 42, the pandemic-era law related to immigration, expired last week, the resulting ‘what happens next’ will almost certainly lead to notarios hoping to ride that question all the way to the bank.”
Notarios — also called notaries or notarios públicos — are not licensed attorneys, said the FTC, noting notarios cannot give legal advice. “But that won’t stop some crooked ones from saying they can help you or promising you results. Those, however, are lies. They’ll cost you not only your money, but possibly your chance to immigrate lawfully.”
Title 42 Explained
Title 42 is an emergency health directive issued by the Trump administration at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. The directive allowed immigration authorities to turn away migrants who showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border, ostensibly to prevent the spread of Covid.
Migrants were forced to remain in the last country they entered before attempting to cross the border, which was largely Mexico, as their claims for asylum were processed. Huge backlogs in the system resulted in wait times of more than two years, with asylum seekers living in tents in crowded areas.
Though the directive ended May 11, the Biden Administration has continued many provisions of Title 42, including the immediate expulsion of asylees who did not apply first for asylum in a country through which they transited.
Critics of Title 42 have called the policy cruel and inhumane.
The FTC offered several tips to avoid getting scammed by notarios.
- Know who can help. Some specialized lawyers and accredited representatives can help people with immigration. Don’t go to a notario for immigration or legal help.
- Don’t pay for forms. Official immigration forms from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are free. Anyone who tries to charge you is a scammer.
- Don’t sign blank forms or any form that has information that’s not true. Dishonest notarios might ask you to do that, and it’s a guarantee of trouble. It also guarantees that someone is only after your money.
- There’s no special access. Nobody can guarantee they’ll get you a green card or citizenship. Nobody can get you on a special list or get early access to any secret process. Those are lies that will cost you money and, very likely, your chance to immigrate lawfully.
“If you know people who work with the immigrant community, who are in legal services organizations, who work for cities where immigrants are arriving, who help refugee and immigrant communities in any way: please share. And if you spot a notario taking advantage of immigrants, tell the FTC: ReportFraud.ftc.gov,” stated the agency.