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Cultural confusion can be a detriment to immigrants

Immigrants in Arizona and other states who can't afford an attorney could be tempted to work with "notarios publico," which translates to "public notaries." These notarios tell individuals who are living in the country illegally that they can help them secure work permits and otherwise aid them with the immigration process. However, these notaries could actually put a person's ability to stay in the country in jeopardy.

One woman was taken into custody more than 20 years after a notario sent an application for permanent residency to authorities. However, she claims that she never lived at the address listed on the application, so she never received a notice to appear in court. Since the woman failed to show up for her court date, she was selected for deportation. In many cases, a notario will submit an application for asylum and a work permit using his or her own address on the application.

With the submission of an application, the name of a person living illegally in the country is now on record with the government, making it easier for authorities to find them. One reason why immigrants may be tempted to seek out notarios publico is that they are the equivalent of lawyers in Latin American countries. Immigrants from those countries may assume that they are working with a lawyer as opposed to someone trying to commit fraud.

Those who are seeking asylum in the United States may benefit by working with an attorney. A lawyer could assist in filling out paperwork or helping an immigrant understand instructions that are written or spoken in English. If an individual fails to appear in court because he or she never received a notice to do so, legal counsel could explain the situation to a judge. This may allow that person to temporarily avoid being deported.

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