Amid complaints of bad legal advice and scamming, activists are pushing forward new legislation that would provide more oversight to immigration consultants.
California State Assembly member Anna Caballero has authored a bill that would repeal the law that created immigration consultants, replacing it with a requirement that consultants be supervised by a lawyer or authorized by the federal government.
The consequences for bad immigration advice can be severe, Caballero said. "There are intense repercussions if it's done wrong. In other words, you could be deported, you could be denied entry into the United States and it could affect family members, as well."
The head of the National Notary Association, which opposes the bill, says the amount of good work vastly outweighs bad consultants and that the bill would cost thousands of jobs and be, in effect, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Immigration attorney Daniel Sharp said the bill would provide accountability.
"The idea that an individual can fill out an immigration form without giving legal advice is a fiction," Sharp said. "This bill sort of ends that fiction and requires that people providing vital services that can have an impact on individual lives for years or decades actually are supervised."
But immigration consultants say that instead of reducing fraud, immigrants will be forced to pay more for lawyers.
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Nonprofit groups like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) say they will provide low-cost help, but even supporters admit it may not be enough.
"We're all concerned about capacity, but from our perspective, no service is better than bad service," Sharp said.
Activists hope the bill will go before the full Senate and Assembly by the end of the summer.