'Notarios' taking advantage of Valley immigrants - CBS46 News

'Notarios' taking advantage of Valley immigrants

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Arizona has become Ground Zero in the immigration debate. As the new policies work their way through Washington, D.C., people here are trying to take advantage of the process.

They're called "notarios," and some of them are preying on immigrants who are looking for alegal path to citizenship.

"It's a dream of everybody to be a U.S. citizen, you know?" said Marabel Hurtado.

She tried to make that dream come true in 2009 by going to an immigration document preparer.

"They told me that I need a consultation with the attorney. I know he's not an attorney now. But they were giving me legal advice," Hurtado said.

She paid $400 for that advice, and she says they encouraged her to lie about working here illegally.

"Look in any Spanish-language magazine or newspaper, and you'll see tons of advertisements for document preparers," said immigration attorney Regina Jefferies. She's also a part of the American Immigration Lawyer Association.

Jefferies says some of these places call themselves "notarios" and prey on Latinos unfamiliar with the U.S. legal process.

"In Latin America, a notario is someone that actually does have a license and ability to practice law to a degree. However, here that's not the case," she explained.

Jefferies says more scams happen when new immigration reform is proposed, like the Gang of 8 proposal that puts illegal immigrants at the back of the line for citizenship. Jefferies says some immigrants hoping to get in that line end up spending thousands of dollars on notarios only to be put on the deportation list.  

"Basically, I'm screwed," said Hurtado.

She is now here legally. She married a U.S. citizen in a couple years ago, but she won't be eligible to apply for her own citizenship for five more years.

Jefferies says most of these shady places go unreported because immigrants are afraid to have their legal status questioned.

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