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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Rep. Gutierrez Advises Individuals to visit his office for Immigration Advice

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.
Yesterday, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) appeared on C-SPAN radio talking about immigration reform, and took calls from listeners. One listener asked about her son-in-law's Temporary Protect Status (TPS) remarking that they had to hire an attorney to assist with the process. The Congressman responded by making the following offer to provide immigration counsel to individuals with questions about TPS (see 9:40 mark). He stated, "Let me just say that if you're down in Chicago area you can just visit our Congressional office instead of visiting an attorney so that we can explain to you about Temporary Protected Status. There should be no reason you need an attorney."

Attorney Annaluisa Padilla, Treasurer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, responded strongly to Rep. Gutierrez's statement remarking that "to say that you do not need an attorney for immigration matters such as TPS is simply irresponsible. A disservice to constituents, which may lead to families being separated for the wrong advice."

Isabel Guzman of the Barbarin Law Group in Durham, North Carolina also responded remarking that "At least twice a week, I see a potential client who has lost their TPS status because the client did the re-registration themselves, or sought a notario to re-register. TPS is a precious commodity that can easily be lost by a simple careless mistake. It is a tragedy when there are qualified immigration lawyers available to ensure you comply with all of the re-registration requirements." Ms. Guzman relates that just this past weekend she appeared on a pro bono basis at a Church outreach where she spoke to a woman that lost her TPS because a notario sent her application to the wrong address.

Ms. Guzman further explains that "a big piece of this is educating TPS holders that TPS is of paramount importance. Re-registration is not like being one day late paying your cable TV bill. Your cable probably won't be shut off but you CAN lose TPS just by making a simple misstep." She also commented that because of recent developments in the law some individuals eligible for TPS may also be eligible for other permanent forms of relief.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Congressman has dissuaded individuals from seeking the advice of an attorney. Back when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was introduced in the summer of 2012 Congressman Gutierrez and Senator Durbin released a video on Youtube telling DREAMers they don't need a lawyer to avail themselves of the process. The video was subsequently removed after it was pointed out that it is patently irresponsible to forgo the advice of an attorney prior to applying for immigration benefits. See: Do DREAMers really need a lawyer?, DREAMers Do Need a Lawyer, Do You Need an Attorney to Apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

There will be many who say that an immigration lawyer has a self-serving interest opposing the Congressman's recent statement. A distinction must be drawn, however, between experienced immigration lawyers that have dedicated their careers to helping immigrants, and notarios that routinely victimize members of immigration communities.

It is fairly obvious that Congressman Gutierrez's heart is in the right place, but respectfully Congressman, immigration lawyers are not the problem here. In many/most instances we are the ones finding the solution, and like Ms. Guzman, oftentimes offer counsel to deserving individuals at no or low cost.

If in the Chicago area you may contact Congressman Gutierrez's office to schedule a conference to speak to him about your immigration matter at (773) 342-0774. His office is located at 3210 West North Ave Chicago, IL 60647. Hours of operation are M-F, 9AM - 5PM CT.

If you have been a victim of notario fraud or suspect an individual is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law please contact the Illinois State Bar Association to request an investigation. Other resources are available through the American Bar Association.

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Updated 02-13-2014 at 04:24 PM by MKolken

Comments

  1. secretshopper's Avatar
    I often admire Rep. Gutierrez for his courageous stance in support of immigrant rights, but this attitude toward competent counsel is mystifying. My office offers free consultation regarding immigration, we have fixed problems with TPS that led to removal proceedings and got removal admin closed (particularly proud of that result!), we help many victims of domestic violence or serious crimes at low costs, and we offer flat fees so a family knows exactly how much a given benefit will cost.

    To encourage an immigrant to wade into the complexity of immigration law without a knowledgeable guide is tantamount to getting blindfolded before driving. It might be awesome, but it could be tragic.

    How about consulting with any of the excellent non-profit or community-based organizations (Lutheran Community Services, Catholic Charities, CHIRLA, CARACEN, and more...) or asking if an attorney offers free consults (or even telephonic consults) or... But flying blind seems like a terrible idea.
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