Two House Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that would establish penalties for individuals exploiting immigrants by providing fraudulent legal counsel.

The measure authored by Reps. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterCongress and Trump are out of step on intellectual property Overnight Defense: House passes 5B defense spending bill | Pentagon moving forward on Trump military parade | Mattis vows 'ironclad' support for South Korea's defense House passes 5B Pentagon spending bill MORE (D-Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) would go after "notarios" who claim to be able to help immigrants with applications for legal status. 


The two lawmakers noted that a false linguistic cognate may play a role: "notario," which in some Latin American countries means a state-appointed lawyer, sounds similar to "notary," which can only certify legal documents. Recent immigrants can consequently be misled on legal qualifications.

Their bill would impose a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for knowingly and falsely pretending to be an accredited attorney in immigration law. Individuals could also face a maximum of 10 years of jail time for fraudulent immigration services. Anyone convicted of either crime would be required to fully reimburse clients.

Foster said the fraud results in immigrants losing money and potentially facing deportation despite trying to follow the law.

"Not only do ‘notarios’ exploit immigrants for money, but their false services can, and many times have, resulted in well-meaning immigrants being deported because they didn’t receive accurate information on the immigration process. We must do more to stop these predators who are exploiting immigrants attempting to play by the rules," Foster said in a statement.

The measure would further direct the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice to develop a procedure for re-submitting corrected applications so that victims of fraud can still apply for legal status.

In addition, the bill would create a program to award grants to nonprofit organizations for providing legal services to immigrants.