By Deborah Notkin, AILA Past President
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been combating the unauthorized practice of law for the last year and a half and has shut down many small outfits preying on immigrant communities. But on January 14, 2010, he took down the big fish by obtaining a restraining order preventing them from providing legal assistance on immigration matters.
The International Immigrants Foundation and their “legal wing”, The International Professional Association have been preying on the immigrant community for over 20 years. Two AILA members, National UPL Committee member Jason Abrams and Past AILA President Allen Kaye have been trying to rid the community of this parasite for many years. They were in the forefront of the final effort, providing important evidence to the Attorney General. Other, newer AILA members were instrumental in supporting the Attorney General’s complaint with detailed affidavits.
The International Immigrants Foundation’s President, Eduardo Juarez, had a column in El Diario as well as a spot on 93.1 FM, a major Spanish speaking radio station. He is not an attorney. In the past, he had fooled even some in the New York City government and had some close relations there – attending planning meetings, glad-handing celebrities, and holding an annual parade down Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue. His fees were at the higher end of the scale, way beyond those a registered 501(c)(3) organization like his should have entertained, and to make matters worse, he charged a monthly membership fee during the course of pending immigration matters.
New York does not have a perfect law regarding the unauthorized practice of law, but with what we have, and the determination of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau and Charities Bureau, this predator is being shut down. The lesson here is that others concerned about the unauthorized practice of law can go to their attorneys general and use the heroic example of Andrew Cuomo and his staff to show it can be done. AILA’s National UPL committee has an ongoing effort to reach out to various attorneys general, but the words of individual AILA members always help.
Now, the task of the New York Bar is to step up to the plate to assist Cuomo’s office in finding competent representation for those with ongoing cases.