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The Unauthorized Practice of Law–Finally Getting Shot Down

Today, New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, turning his attention rather momentarily away from Wall Street, issued more than 50 subpoenas to individuals and businesses in New York City, as part of a widening investigation into immigration fraud by unauthorized practitioners and businesses, including “non-profit” businesses. The New York Times reported today some details of the investigation and provides some short glimpses into the hardships caused by these predators.

To Attorney General Cuomo I say thank for doing what Attorney Generals around the United States (and, heck, the Attorney General OF the United States), should have been doing for years. Its about time that the law enforcement authorities took seriously the damage these predators cause on one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society–new immigrants.

Even that bastion of the letter of the law following government agency–the USCIS, does not actively investigate and prosecute the very people violating its own regulations! Might I cite you to 8 C.F.R. 292.1, which clearly states that NO one may represent someone before the USCIS who does not fall within that specifically detailed list. The USCIS sees it going on first hand, yet does nothing about it. You have to ask yourself, why? Is it perhaps because it is just easier to deport the victims, rather than go after the perpetrators?

But, let us not forget to be introspective too. Whenever we see this happening, we also need to ask ourselves–are attorneys assisting in this unauthorized practice of law? Too many times, attorneys are sucked into “non-profit” enterprises, or pair with in-the-know “community leaders” who have the attorneys act as fronts for their UPL activity, when the attorneys have little to no knowledge of immigration law, and abandon all attempt at the illusion of giving legal advise, all for the 30 pieces of silver these bad actors give the attorneys in return.

As we approach comprehensive immigration reform, and the tremendous demand that reform will put not only on the USCIS and the immigration system, but also on the need for competent legal services, we have to demand that federal and state authorities act now to send the message that taking money to give no service and do no good, will not be tolerated, Further, USCIS must send the message that it will not tolerate an abuse of its own system (isn’t USCIS perceptually doing that now with the record setting number of RFEs it is sending out), and begin to prosecute the UPLers. Remember, it is a violation of law to not sign the forms submitted to USCIS if you complete them for someone else–Come on USCIS, do a real investigation!

So, Bravo to Attorney General Cuomo. Let’s see if Attorney General Holder will follow suit and put a stop to these Harbingers of Doom.


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