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The Wrong Help Can Hurt

WRITTEN BY: Narisara P. Jongjarearn -Tasanont, Attorney at Law

The Wrong Help Can Hurt

We all have friends or family members who believe they know a thing or two about immigration law. When these people find out that someone that they know wants to apply for some kind of immigration benefit, they instantly want to “help”. While this may be very nice, it could end up hurting the person who got the free help. But how can the help from your friend end up hurting? Well its usually because they will know someone who had the “same problem” as you, so because of that, they feel they know how to handle your problem. But even people with the same type arrest can have very different outcomes. There are so many factors to consider. You don’t just look at the previous crime, but look also to what type of sentence could have been imposed, as well as when the crime occurred. And when it is a crime involving moral turpitude, it is very important to know when you committed the crime. There are many more factors to consider, too many to include here. But anyone with an arrest record should consult with an attorney who knows both immigration and criminal law before they apply for an immigration benefit.

That being said, even people without an arrest record should consult an immigration attorney before filing anything with the immigration. While a lot of cases turn out okay, there are many that do not and all could have been avoided if the person had only consulted with an immigration lawyer before filing anything with the immigration. The immigration lawyer will interview both you and the petitioner to find out if there is anything to be concerned with. Only an immigration attorney would know what to look for. Your friends may have good intentions and want to help you with all theforms, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Also remember that no one, not your friends, sister, neighbor, co-worker, paralegal, attorney’s secretary, tax preparer, etc, can give you legal advice. Anything that they tell you could be partially correct or completely wrong. Never ever take the legal advice of someone who is not a lawyer. Only a lawyer can giveyou legal advice. If you only remember this, you will likely never have problems with improper filings.

For the past couple of years the immigration has been actively seeking out people who pose as lawyers who give the public the wrong information and charge money for legal services that they are not authorized by law to give. Even if your friends do not charge you any money, it is illegal for them to give you any legal advice. Remember realfriends encourage you to get the facts and correct information from a qualified attorney. They won’t try to discourage you from getting the help that you need. Do not let their stories convince you not to seek the help of a lawyer. Many friends and co-workers will tell you that they knew someone in the exact same situation as you and had no problems at the interview. Unless your friend is an attorney who reviewed the other person’s court paperwork and your court paperwork, they cannot say that you case is exactly the same. And even if the case is exactly the same, the timing may be different. What I mean is that the crime may not have occurred at the same time under the same immigration circumstances.

Everyone, please pay attention. Do not do the paperwork yourself. Do not hire a lawyer’s secretary, do not go see a translator or tax preparer, go straight to the source of true legal help, go to see only a qualified lawyer for your immigration needs. Anyone who is not a lawyer is participating in the unauthorized practice of law and can be punished in a court of law. Please be advised not to compare an attorney’s fees to someone who is not an attorney. Of course the attorney’s fees will be more. We have to be licensed to practice law and we are accountable if something goes wrong. Anyone who is not attorney is not accountable and when something goes wrong, they go missing…along with the money you paid them. And sometimes even with the money you paid for the immigration! The choice is yours, make the right one. Happy New Year to all. May there be peace on earth.

Narisara P. Jongjarearn-Tasanont works out of her law office in Los Angeles.She also the Executive Director of the Thai American Citizens Alliance. She is an active member of the State Bar of California and the American ImmigrationLawyer’s Association. You can contact her at 323-664-7131 or 323-704-6355 with your immigration questions. The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.

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