In Tennessee, there has been a growing problem of notario publicos creating false or improperly filled out immigration documents for Hispanics. The notario publicos, or public notary businesses in the Spanish to English translation, are generally owned by Hispanics who have already obtained citizenship. They ask for a large amount of money in order to fill out and file immigration documents and assist with other U.S. legal navigation, but don’t actually file any paperwork or help families obtain citizenship in any way.
Law Enforcement Against False Hispanic Notaries is Tricky
The state of Tennessee has passed laws against these types of businesses, but the trick is actually tracking down the owners and locations. Often the businesses have no license to operate as a public notary business, but sometimes the owners actually have a license and simply scam on the side. The most popular victims are families who are new arrivals to the country and have yet to obtain legal citizenship. They often have trouble with communication because many cannot yet speak English. They gravitate towards businesses that offer Spanish translation services and people who will help them traverse the complex laws of the United States.
Jose Ortiz-Bucios, along with his wife and young daughter, has become one of the many victims of notary scams. After a while when Ortiz-Bucios could no longer get in touch with the woman who allegedly filed his family’s immigration documents, he contacted legal help and, through a Spanish translator, told his story even though he was fearful of the repercussions since he was living in the country illegally.
The Term “Notario Publicos” Can Be Confusing for Hispanics
In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, notario publicos are attorneys that are widely respected by the public and are used for processing legal documents and issuing judicial opinions. However, notaries are not as highly regarded in the United States and they only have the power to notarize documents and take oaths.
They are not legal attorneys and are not permitted by law to take money for legal advice. The false businesses in Tennessee are relying on new immigrants to be ignorant of the differences in order to scam them for money. The businesses are widely advertised in Hispanic neighborhoods, and authorities are trying their best to spread awareness and shut down any illegal operations they find.