SEATTLE – Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas in the legal field. Missing a deadline or not properly researching applicable law prior to submitting an application can cause an immigrant to lose his or her legal status or even face deportation.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office announced three additional cases today involving individuals who are not qualified to provide legal advice to immigrants. As is typical in consumer protection cases, the settlements don’t require an admission or finding of wrongdoing but the defendants agree to restrictions on their business practices.
The cases brought by Assistant Attorney General Pedro Bernal include:
- Interlink Business Center, LLC, and John Manlee Ching (Seattle): Ching is accused of providing legal advice to Chinese-speaking customers about immigration matters and failing to provide customers with a written contract containing important consumer disclosures as required by state law. Under a settlement filed in King County Superior Court, he agreed to pay $50,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs. An additional $17,500 in civil penalties is suspended provided he complies with the settlement terms.
- EC New Horizons, Edwin Cruz and Maurice Terry (Lakewood): The defendants are accused of misleading advertising and illegally entering into 480 agreements with customers to provide legal advice and prepare documents related to petitions for immigration benefits. Under a settlement filed in Pierce County Superior Court, they agreed to pay $2,000 in civil penalties and $6,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs. An additional $35,000 in civil penalties is suspended provided they comply with the settlement terms.
- David Carl Williams (Seattle and Covington): Williams is accused of providing legal advice and of placing advertisements that compare his services to those provided by an attorney. Under a settlement filed in King County Superior Court, he agreed to pay $3,000 in civil penalties, $2,500 in consumer restitution and $3,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.
Earlier this year, additionally, the AGO requested a bill, recently approved by the Legislature, that changed state law regarding immigration services. It cracks down on the use of the term of “notario”, eliminates the ability to file as an “immigration assistant” with the state, and imposes additional legal consequences for making false representations about being skilled in immigration law. Individuals, nonprofit organizations and law school clinics authorized to provide immigration services under federal law aren’t impacted.
Officials believe the new legislation, combined with education and outreach efforts, will help prevent consumer harm.
Information about the new law and resources to obtain legitimate services can be found on the Attorney General’s website at www.atg.wa.gov/immigrationservices.aspx.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725