Self-proclaimed California immigration lawyer Yehlen Dorothea Brooks led 12 “clients” to fall for her empty promises that she would protect them from deportation. Despite making claims that she would help undocumented immigrants and collecting fees ranging from $3,000 to over $16,000, Brooks was not an actual attorney. She was never licensed to practice law and did little or no work on behalf of the clients. According to the article by Yesenia Amaro titled They take ‘their last dollar.’ Immigrants at the mercy of fraudsters, “The victims trusted (Brooks) and in some instances, gave her their last dollar. (Brooks) took advantage of that trust and even threatened victims that if they did not continue to pay her, they would be deported”.
Unfortunately, this story is not as unusual as it might seem. There are many deceitful individuals preying on vulnerable immigrants. Many immigrants are being victimized by notaries public, immigration consultants and unlicensed individuals who are defrauding them and placing them in an even worse situation. Some victims have even been deported because they were given incorrect advice by an unqualified individual.
Those situations are sometimes the result of cultural differences. According to Amaro’s article, “Many in the immigrant community don’t understand a notary public in the U.S. is vastly different from a “notario publico” in Latin American countries and some European countries. In the U.S., a notary public only witnesses signatures and translates forms, for example, but cannot fill out forms and act as an immigration specialist. But some of them operate beyond their scope of practice. In Latin America, however, notario publicos have a level of education closer to an attorney”.
Until someone with power takes action to stop the fraudsters, immigrants will fall prey to their deceitful and cunning practices. That is why it is vitally important for every immigrant to ensure that the person they are working with on their immigration case is a licensed attorney. Here is what you can do:
1. Check the State Bar Association Website
Every attorney who is licensed to practice in your home statemust be listed in your state bar association’s directory. Here is a link to Connecticut’s:https://www.jud.ct.gov/AttorneyFirmInquiry/AttorneyFirmInquiry.aspx
2. Google Them
Another good way to find out whether the attorney is legitimate is to Google them. See whether they have a professional looking website and what their clients say about them on the Internet.
3. Look on Avvo
What do client reviews say about them on Avvo? Do they even have an account on this website? If they do not, it does not automatically mean that they are not a lawyer, but if they do and the reviews look good, then it is a good sign for you.
Those are some examples of what you can do to determine whether the person who claims they can help you avoid deportation is an actual attorney. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who will try to take advantage of your vulnerable position so you need to be very cautious.If you are looking for a reputable attorney with many years of experience to help you with your immigration case, feel free to contact the Law Offices of James A. Welcome at (203) 806-7922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.