What Makes Immigrants In The United States Vulnerable To Bad Immigration Attorneys Or Non-Attorney Services?
If an immigrant is working without authorization and making money under the table, and one service promises to help them for $500, while an experienced immigration attorney promises to help them for $5,000, which will the person likely choose? Of course, they’re going to choose the non-attorney service for $500, and that’s the issue.
On two occasions, I had to intervene in a conversation that was taking place in the Miami Asylum Office in Florida, where people become translators. The first time, there was a non-attorney giving legal advice in Arabic right in front of me. I happened to be on the elevator with the officer right afterwards, and I said, “That guy was just giving legal advice; what are you going to do about it?” He responded with, “I’m not going to do anything. I’m probably going to deny the case anyways, so why even bother?”
On the second occasion, what I heard was egregious. I was sitting in the waiting area, where a Muslim dad (alongside his son) was praying for his wife to be allowed inside. Then, a “translator” came out and said, “Did you like how I changed the answers on those questions? We are lucky that the translator on the phone didn’t actually pick up on that.” As an attorney, I have an ethical duty to report something like that, so I did. I told the manager that the person was very loudly proclaiming that he changed the answers, and that while I didn’t want to mess with the family’s future, I had to say something. After that, they called him back, and I don’t know what happened. I met with the fraud detection unit afterward to explain what happened.
On top of there already being a lot of distrust in lawyers, there are people who are pretending to be lawyers. I’ve reported someone to the Florida Bar for doing something which led my client to end up in removal proceedings, and the attitude was that they’re not doing it anymore. The person ended up being prosecuted in federal court in the Middle District of Florida because he was embezzling money from his client. The Florida Bar said they’re not doing it anymore, and asked what they should do about it. That is the attitude here, and that has bred a lot of distrust in immigration attorneys.
Another challenge is that many people don’t know what they qualify for. I had a client who had been here for a long time, but her DACA application was denied because she didn’t know that her mother qualified for a green card. A lot of immigrants don’t know what they qualify for, and unfortunately, they fall for false promises. Finding a good immigration attorney is a struggle, and a lot of websites are just hyped up. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable around an attorney, then they shouldn’t hire them, because the client and attorney need to click.
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