SAN FRANCISCO—An alert was issued by the California State Bar on Wednesday, July 3 for immigrants to be on the lookout for fake immigration attorneys. 

The news release comes weeks after President Donald Trump announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be performing a large-scale deportation of undocumented immigrants starting on June 23.

“Everyone in California deserves access to legal services, no matter their immigration status.” She followed it up by saying, “Recent federal warnings about mass deportations undoubtedly have escalated fear and alarm in immigrant communities, and this climate increases the potential that the unscrupulous will be trying to take advantage of those most vulnerable and in need,” said Melanie Lawrence, Interim Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California.

The State Bar suggested the following steps for immigrants:

  • Ask for the attorney’s full name and State Bar number.
  • Before hiring the attorney or paying any sum of money, look up the attorney on the State Bar website, or the state in which they are licensed, to see if their license is active and whether they have any history of discipline. You can also call the State Bar at 800-843-9053.
  • Check the State Bar’s cease and desist list, which warns non-attorneys that certain of their practices may violate the law, and the federal list of those not authorized to practice immigration law.
  • Be wary of non-attorneys who call themselves notarios; they are not authorized in California to provide legal advice.
  • Get your contract in writing as well as receipts for payments you make.
  • Be wary if someone requires cash payments. If you must pay in cash, be sure to have a written receipt.
  • Be wary of those who threaten to report your immigration status if you do not pay them immediately.
  • Keep a paper trail. If you don’t have a bank account, use a cashier’s check. If you’ve already made a payment, you are entitled to ask for an accounting of your bills.