This past year, the Trump Administration announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for six countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan), threatening the legal status of more than 300,000 individuals that collectively comprise  98% of all TPS program participants.   In response, several lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS have been filed in federal courts across the country.  Among other arguments, the plaintiffs in most of these challenges claim that the decision to terminate TPS was motivated by racial discrimination, violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and infringes upon the beneficiaries’ constitutional rights.

On October 4, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from terminating TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan while litigation proceeds.   While the injunction provides welcome temporary relief for thousands of TPS recipients, they are still left wondering what the future holds. As TPS recipients navigate this ever-changing territory, it is more important than ever that they remain vigilant and protect themselves against immigration scams.

Immigration scams take many forms,  but they all have one thing in common – they are harmful to immigrants. Immigrants are often tricked into paying for legal services offered by unqualified individuals or paying someone to help them apply for a benefit for which they do not qualify. They are led to fake “official” government websites, promised a pathway to citizenship on false premises, and even duped by fake Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers who demand money in return for “protecting” them from deportation. In Spanish-speaking countries, a notario público often refers to a lawyer. However, in the United States, notario is not synonymous with lawyer and those holding themselves out as notarios often capitalize on this misunderstanding by targeting immigrants and offering what they claim is sound legal advice in exchange for a hefty fee. However, this is not sound legal advice. It is the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) given by people who are not authorized to give legal advice. In other words, it is a scam.

For example, Leonardo, a Mexican national, hired a notario in Maryland to assist him in obtaining a green card through his employer, who after several years of work, offered to sponsor him for lawful permanent residence.  However, Leonardo had entered the United States several years earlier without inspection. Although Leonardo explained this to the notario, she neglected to advise him that he was not eligible to adjust his status in the United States through his employer and would be subject to a ten-year bar to returning to the United States if he left and applied for a  visa in his home country. Instead, the notario took Leonardo’s money in exchange for a promise she could never deliver.

TPS recipients can protect themselves against scams by hiring and building a relationship based on trust with a qualified immigration lawyer. A good lawyer will help their client navigate a complex legal system and avoid serious missteps by verifying that all applications are filled out accurately and completely, explaining the law, and sharing all potential options so the client can make an informed decision. At the end of the day, lawyers are there to serve their clients;  to help them make good decisions and protect them from anything that may cause them harm.

Any immigrant with a question about their legal status or case should seek the advice of qualified counsel and can find a licensed immigration lawyer at www.ailalawyer.org. For more tips on avoiding immigration scams, check out AILA’s advisory, “Protect You and Your Family from TPS Immigration Scams.”