Among Latinos, those without legal degrees offering help with immigration applications are often called “notarios.” In Mexico, notario can mean a lawyer. In the United States, the storefront legal aides are mostly paralegals and notaries.
They go by other names in Asians, South Asians and African communities.
Philadelphia Councilman Dennis O’Brien is calling for a hearing on these practitioners early next year, a resolution approved Thursday by City Council.
The common denominators are scams and mistakes that can cost legal residents and people in the country illegally thousands of dollars, the councilman said. Fraudulent immigration services can also put immigrants at risk for deportation.
“These people want to have a legal path to citizenship. If these people take their money, then they can’t follow that,” O’Brien said. “If the forms are not completed on a timely basis or they’re the incorrect forms, they end up being punished for that.”
The goal is to come away from the hearings with new approaches to combating this fraud, both on the part of the city and of law enforcement, he said.
“Someone is committing a crime. It doesn’t matter who it’s being committed against,” O’Brien said. “It is a crime and it’s not victimless. It’s not faceless.
He’s co-sponsored the resolution, approved unanimously by City Council, with Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.