Friday, April 8, 2011

House votes to help immigrants do the right thing the right way

Last night the House unanimously passed HB 5023, a measure to crack down on quasi-legal assistants who swindle hard working men and women out of hundreds or thousands of dollars with the promise of fixing their immigration papers.

This consumer protection bill solves the problem of people using misleading labels, such as “registered immigration assistant” and “notario publico,” a term that is the equivalent to attorney in some Latin American countries. With these titles they deceive vulnerable immigrants about their authority, qualifications, competency and ability to provide professional services.

The deceptions that have taken place as a result of this practice have caused serious harm to immigrants and prevented them from getting the legal advice and services they do need.

By eliminating the current state registry of “immigration assistants,” the bill stresses that only lawyers are authorized to provide legal advice on immigration matters. Under this measure assistants to lawyers can still translate, transcribe and provide other helpful services to immigrants that do not constitute the practice of law.

Watch the video below to see freshman Rep. Cindy Ryu, a naturalized citizen, as her moving remarks remind everyone in the chamber what being an American is all about:

The measure has the support of immigrants, immigrant organizations, and other groups that work directly with immigrants, such as One America, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is really a good consumer protection bill,” said Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, who sponsored the House companion to the Senate measure that passed. “Too many people wanting to do the right thing are instead seeing their lives ruined from having trusted these individuals who masquerade as attorneys.”

SB 5023 now goes back to the Senate for concurrence and then to Governor Gregoire for her signature.