Attorney General Hardy Myers today warned undocumented immigrants in Oregon of persons giving unlawful and incorrect advice concerning immigration law and filed a court action against a McMinnville businessman for doing exactly that. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Yamhill County Circuit Court is Tino Aleman , owner/operator of Aleman's Interpreter/Translator Service.
"Immigrants should only seek assistance from attorneys with expertise in immigration law or from individuals and organizations accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)," Myers said. "This area of law is complex and constantly changing and unfortunately, open to unscrupulous activity."
Aleman, who has for a number of years provided a variety of immigration services to clients without the proper authority to do so, was investigated in 1994 by the Oregon State Bar (OSB) for the unauthorized practice of law. That same year, Aleman signed a Cease and Desist Agreement with the OSB that required him to stop providing immigration law advice to consumers.
Oregon Department of Justice investigators recently found that Aleman was violating the OSB agreement by doing a substantial amount of improper immigration-related business. Aleman admitted in a Justice interview that he selected forms for consumers and gave advice on how the forms should be filed. Both of these activities constitute the practice of law and violate the Unlawful Trade Practices Act due to the fact that Aleman is neither an attorney nor an authorized representative of an agency accredited by the BIA.
Other evidence suggested Aleman gave consumers specific advice concerning their rights under federal immigrant law. Although Aleman did not charge exorbitant fees for his unlawful services, he served a high volume of clients.
Aleman, admitting no violation of law, has agreed to pay $1,500 to the Department of Justice consumer protection and education fund and pay refunds to consumers upon request. Aleman must abide by the 1994 Oregon State Bar Cease and Desist Agreement that prohibits him from giving advice or preparing documents for clients concerning the US immigration laws.
Aleman may continue to do language translations and to explain where the Portland Immigration Service District Office is located and how persons may obtain legal immigration advice from an attorney or from persons authorized by federal law to appear before the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
The Department of Justice has recently experienced an increase in reported immigration services fraud due in part to an extension of federal law. "The April 30 extension of the new Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act of 2000 will give some undocumented immigrants a second chance to apply for permanent resident status in Oregon," Myers said. "Unfortunately, those same immigrants are the targets of some unlawful immigration services also taking advantage of the extended period."
Myers, who in 1998 formed an immigration services fraud task force made up of community organizations, accredited immigration lawyers and concerned political leaders, urges those seeking immigration advice to do the following:
Call the Attorney General's consumer hotline and the Better Business Bureau for complaints against businesses providing immigration services.
Determine if the advice giver is an attorney that specializes in immigration law or an accredited representative of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Always ask to see the credentials.
Request an official notice of representation or a written retainer agreement.
Be sure to discuss any possible risks involved before submitting papers to the INS.
For more information on immigration services fraud, consumers may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392 or write Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection, 1162 Court Street, N.E., Salem, Oregon 97310. Online information is at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) email@example.com