McAllen – After the sweep of his pen last week, President Barack Obama expanded avenues for legal immigration status for potentially 4 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, causing a ripple effect across the Rio Grande Valley.
The Mexican consulate warned residents Monday to be celebratory about the reforms but aware about a new market of fraud and scams playing on emotions about the hope for a legal visa.
“We welcome these measures; they have the potential to affect a lot of people and bring them out of the shadows,” said Erasmo Roberto Martínez Martínez, the Mexican consul in McAllen.
But he cautioned that there is still a lot of fine print that hasn’t been released like the fee structure and even the application for immigrants interested in taking advantage of the program. Scam artists can take advantage of this information gap, he said.
Notario publicos, or immigration attorneys with specialized training, are common in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. But to become a public notary in the United States requires much less certification, and they generally only witness the authorization of documents. Being a public notary also doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a law degree or trained to provide advice or counseling about immigration law.
Since 2002, more than 60 public notaries have been shut down for providing unqualified legal advice across Texas by the Attorney General’s Office, including two in McAllen last year.
The network of 50 Mexican consulates based in the United States has a telephone line dedicated to questions called the Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans (CIAM), which can be reached daily at (855) 463-6395. They also launched a free smartphone app, “MiConsulmex.”
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