Sad to say, there are a number of bad, unethical immigration attorneys practicing law in the U.S. Every month, the immigration court system publishes a list of attorneys who have been suspended or prohibited from every practicing immigration law ever again. These attorneys run afoul of the immigration service for relatively minor offenses - i.e., failing to provide proper representation to their clients or failing to meet court imposed deadlines to serious criminal behavior such as stealing from their clients, knowingly submitting fraudulent documents and related misconduct.
Several years ago, a local immigration attorney had a thriving law practice. He was elected to the state House of Representatives. By all outward appearances, the attorney was doing all the right things.
However, due to his political aspirations, he left most of the immigration work to be performed by unlicensed paralegals and law students. Clients began complaining when the attorney/state representative began missing deadlines and court appearances. A few clients found themselves in deportation proceedings due to the attorney’s failure to notify them of court appearances.
Eventually, the attorney’s entire practice came crumbling down upon him once it was discovered that he had engineered an immigration scam whereby he obtained fraudulent employment visas for a client’s employees. The U.S. Attorney’s office indicted and prosecuted the immigration attorney for fraud. The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to federal prison. He lost his license and many of his clients found themselves in serious trouble.
Now, bad immigration attorneys are not limited to criminal actors. There are a number of incompetent lawyers whose poor performance might not rise to the level of criminal mastermind. These attorneys may simply be absent from the office, forgetful, negligent or just plain dumb. They often charge rock-bottom prices so as to undercut the reasonable fees charged by competent immigration attorneys and to keep money coming in the door.
Here’s an example. A man recently visited our office. He described a horrible experience that he had suffered with another local immigration attorney. The man had hired this attorney because (a) they both spoke the same language and (b) the lawyer charged half as much as the going rate in town. The man had sought assistance in helping his elderly mother obtain citizenship and everyone agreed that the lady would need to obtain a medical waiver if she were to obtain citizenship because she most likely could not learn English so as to pass the exam.
Incredibly, the attorney filed the N-400 naturalization application without ever obtaining the medical waiver. He sent the old lady to the interview with her son-in-law, but the attorney did not attend. When the lady failed the English portion of the exam, she was sent home with nothing. USCIS allows someone who fails the exam to try one more time. So when the Service rescheduled the interview a few months later, the family contacted their attorney. His reply - “I am out of the country visiting India, you will need to find a doctor and obtain the medical waiver.”
This family was undeniably harmed by the incompetence of this attorney. He never did what he was supposed to do and the family wasted $1400 on the filing fee and the money paid to this attorney. This sad episode shows why it is important to work with competent counsel.