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On Friday, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced that his office submitted legislation to the D.C. Council that seeks to reduce instances of alleged fraudsters fiscally preying on immigrants.
The Immigration Services Protection Act—modeled after a law in Maryland—targets what’s known as notario fraud, where people who purport to have legal expertise lure immigrants into paying for their services, often for hundreds of dollars. The Office of the Attorney General notes that the bill came out of a working group of local and federal agencies as well as advocates sharing best practices.
“We have seen individuals and businesses falsely advertising themselves as notarios and taking advantage of the District’s Spanish-speaking immigrant communities,” Raicne said in a statement. “This legislation gives us more tools to ensure that immigrants won’t be defrauded out of their money or get stuck with the potentially devastating consequences of incorrect immigration advice.”
City Desk has requested a copy of the legislation from OAG. A release notes that the bill allows “only licensed attorneys, individuals qualified under federal law, non-profit organizations, and legal clinics to perform immigration services.” It also mandates that providers be paid after the legal services have been rendered, as well as “contractual requirements that protect consumers,” per the release.
Violators found to have breached the proposed law would be fined under D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, OAG says. People who believe they’ve suffered immigration-services fraud can contact OAG at 202-442-9828.
Update 3:10 p.m.: The legislation carves out requirements for and restrictions on non-licensed “immigration services providers,” according to a copy of it OAG furnished to City Desk. For example, such providers must draw up written contracts with clients including “an itemization of all fees to be charged” as well as a stipulation that “the provider shall return any documents provided by the client at the client’s request, even in the event of a fee dispute.”
The bill lays out misdemeanor charges for violations, which entail fines of up to $3,000 or imprisonment of up to half a year, in addition to civil penalties. You can read the full bill below: