Lately there has been an increase of non-lawyers immigration law forums (referred in this article as ‘forums’) discussing about immigration and other legal matters. Many serve educational purposes, however, many of them are owned, maintained and moderated by -lawyers and ultimately might be wrongly advising readers and members. The Department of Homeland Security is making a huge effort to crack down on “notarios”, and other so called immigration consultants and unfortunately on the web, such ‘forums’ enable the non-lawyers to prosper and even hurt numerous people. In this article, I have tried to compile few reasons why someone should avoid relying and even putting private information on such forums.
1. Non Lawyer Immigration law Forums are not lawyers and as such are not allowed to give legal advice.
A lawyer in the United States is bound by ABA rules of professional responsibility and their respective State ethical regulations. As such a lawyer is licensed to practice law and is allowed to give such advices. A forum, although, giving information for educational purposes can actually mislead readers and ultimately not be punished because such forums are not accountable for their actions.
2. Wrong information given causing more harm than good.
I can write volumes on the number of clients calling our office talking about reading certain things on forums and worried that their cases be denied. Often time they will be so worried that they will be making mistakes which will cost them their approvals. One example was a client who was charged of a domestic violence. The truth is that the case was dismissed but unfortunately when he posted the case on the forum, someone wrote that “…you will be deported…period”. After reading this forum, he was so scared that he ended up with high blood pressure. His spouse was worried because she knew that it was just an unfortunate situation when she called the police and there was no real case on the client. The client was called for an adjustment of status interview and he contacted our office. We re-assured the client and accompanied him at the interview. His case was approved on the same day and the first thing he told me was that: “….nobody said I could get my greencard on the forum?” He told me that he wished he has spoken to us before getting so worried and ending up in the hospital for high blood pressure. My answer was simple – stop relying on forums for advices.
3. Wrong application of immigration law.
Immigration law is very complex. In fact, many have categorized immigration law as complicated as tax laws. Missing one fact can actually result into a deportation or worse if you are outside in a permanent bar. One time in 2007, a client came to our office, for a marriage case and she got all her information on a forum owned by non-lawyer immigration consultant. The consultant prepared her paperwork for an Form I-130 petition and it was approved. Because she entered illegally, the immigration consultant asked her just to go to the Mexico US embassy to pick her immigrant visa.
The client was ready to fly when she came to our office. We sat down and explained to her about the 10 years bar. We also found out that she can benefit from the INA 24(i) requesting her just to pay a penalty and file for an adjustment of status in the United States. We advised her not to leave. After 3 months, we obtained her permanent residence in the United States without her leaving. Had she left, she would have been barred to enter the United States for at least 10 years. Another example how the “non-lawyer” forums could have destroyed the life of a couple.
4. Anti-Immigration groups hacking into immigrant forums.
While most Americans are either pro-immigration or neutral, there are many people who hate immigrants and are determined to mislead them to create havoc. I remember during the time of Tri Valley University situation, where hundreds of students from India were threatened with deportation, someone went on the forums advising them to give their information to authorities “…if they had nothing to fear…” The problem with this advice is that volunteering information without the presence of an attorney can actually harm someone more than help him. As such you do not know who is really answering you on a forum.
5. Tracking your personal information
People sometimes don’t realize that the internet is a ‘world-wide’ web and can be accessed by many hackers, and even government agencies. Lately, we have seen that the DHS has been using social network websites and other forums to gather information on people. Forums are worst because they have a pool of people who actually have something in common and are good places to be abused. If you are speaking to a lawyer this information becomes confidential.
6. Irrelevant and Useless answers.
Since many of such immigration law forums are usually maintained by non-lawyers, the chances of getting irrelevant and useless answers are so high that many spend their time searching for an answer which is not relevant to their situation. Each case is different, success or failure in one case does not mean your case will succeed or fail. Therefore, you should not stress about forums’ answers.
7. “Jack of all trades and Master of none.”
Just like you need a doctor when you are sick or an engineer to built certain things, you actually need a lawyer to answer your legal questions. Despite good intentions, many ignore that the people who are writing on such forums are not lawyers, they are just relating their experiences and trying to conclude from such experiences. A very dangerous practice which can actually create more problems and offer no solution.
The article is not trying to be pretentious and making all forums ‘outlaws’. There are many good forums out there such as www.Avvo.com and www.SPLawforum.com where answers of licensed attorneys appear. Such can be reliable medium although provided for educational purposes only. The truth is that many non-lawyer forums are just as bad as non-lawyer consultants trying to prey on innocent readers to make a fortune. Some actually do. Therefore be careful, if you want real legal advice, please contact a good lawyer to help.
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Information provided is for educational purposes only. You should not or refrain to act solely on the information provided. You should contact an attorney before you decide to move forward on your case.
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