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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 4435, the Fight Notario Fraud Act of 2021

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 4435, the Fight Notario Fraud Act of 2021:

"The 'Fight Notario Fraud Act of 2021' would criminalize the practice by unlicensed, and often untrained, people who offer legal services in immigration matters to unsuspecting victims.

"Last Congress, we passed a nearly identical version of the bill out of this Committee, and through the House, on a bipartisan voice vote, and I hope we will do the same again this year.  The bipartisan nature of last year’s vote speaks to the widespread condemnation of these fraudulent practices.

"Notario fraud grifters take advantage of the translation of 'notario público' in Spanish, to 'notary public' in English.

"While the translation may be technically accurate, the meaning is very different, and the intent of these scam artists is malevolent—to defraud unsuspecting patrons seeking immigration help.

"In Latin America, 'notario públic' often refers to a licensed attorney, whereas, in the United States, a notary public is only permitted to witness the signing of documents, not to act as a lawyer.  But many immigrants, particularly Latinos, unfamiliar with the American meaning of the term can be fooled by fraudulent notary publics into seeking legal assistance on immigration matters, often with disastrous consequences.

"Many of these immigrants may lose thousands of dollars and their immigration applications may go nowhere.  But they are lucky compared with those whose immigration cases are irreparably harmed and whose opportunities to normalize their immigration status are prejudiced or even lost. 

"Notarios may also abandon their victims and flee with important documentation that immigrants need to file for immigration relief. Victims of notario fraud, who have entrusted these fraudsters with their future and their hopes are both ripped off and potentially stripped of the opportunity to pursue the American dream.

"To address the prevalence of notario fraud, the Fight Notario Fraud Act would create three new federal crimes.

"First, it would outlaw the provision of fraudulent immigration services.

"Second, it would prohibit misrepresentations by individuals who falsely claim to be authorized to practice immigration law.  This narrowly crafted provision would establish targeted criminal penalties for the flagrant abuse of immigrants seeking relief.

"It would hold accountable those who take advantage of some of the least sophisticated consumers.  This measure provides a much-needed tool for prosecutors to prevent this type of fraud and abuse.

"And, finally, the bill would criminalize threats and retaliatory acts associated with the provision of fraudulent immigration services.

"These provisions of the bill are particularly important.  Notario fraud schemes are very rarely reported because so many immigrants are afraid of retaliation.  By some estimates, only one in every hundred cases is ever reported to the authorities.  Failure to report these crimes, along with limited prosecutions, allows notarios to continue their scams. 

"With this bill, greater focus and emphasis will be placed on notario scams by providing additional authority and resources to prosecute these crimes, including through the creation of no fewer than 15 Special United States Attorney positions to prosecute notario fraud crimes.

"I thank Representative Escobar for her leadership in introducing this vital legislation and I ask all my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill today."

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