The California State Bar is warning those seeking legal help following the recent immigration sweep to carefully vet attorneys or other legal providers before using them.
Those seeking help should ask for attorneys’ state bar numbers, get contracts in writing, watch out for providers asking for cash payment and keep a paper trail, according to the State Bar.
Immigration officials arrested 232 people on suspicion of immigration violations in a sweep in northern and central California that ended Wednesday.
Some of those arrested will face criminal prosecution for illegal entry and re-entry after deportation, immigration officials have said. Others will be deported.
To make sure those who purport to help are qualified to do so, the bar association urges immigrants to ask for state bar numbers and look them up on the State Bar website at www.calbar.ca.gov. Information is also available at (800) 843-9053.
Also, immigrants should be wary of those who call themselves “notarios,” as this is not authorized in California.
In Hispanic countries, notarios publicos are highly trained legal professionals akin to attorneys, according to the National Notary Association. In the U.S., however, notaries are state-commissioned officials with narrow duties, and unethical individuals exploit the term, the association said.
Immigrants should be sure to get their contracts in writing, along with receipts for payment, according to the association.
It’s also important to keep a paper trail. Those who don’t have checking accounts should use cashier’s checks.
Under California law, attorneys may not promise a particular outcome from legal representation, lie about their ability to represent a person in immigration court or seek clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are labeled as an advertisement.