Though Oswaldo Cabrera claimed to be advocating for the rights of undocumented immigrants, many of his "clients" claimed that he was simply emptying their pockets as notarios publicos have done to many others. His rise as a so-called leader of immigrant rights began long ago, but was pushed forward even further in 2010, when he announced that he would be going on a hunger strike in response to Arizona's bill that targeted undocumented immigrants. Cabrera has built a reputation as a fierce defender of the rights of U.S.-citizen children whose parents were undocumented immigrant by using media tactics such as this one.
Coalición Latinoamericana Internacional, his organization, offers a wide range of immigration related services. His ads on TV, the radio, and on paper claim that he can help make immigrants and their families legal, some even claiming his organization has won more than 250,000 immigration cases. The only catch is that he is not a licensed lawyer and many claim that though he never used the term "notario publico," he certainly acts like one.
Two Fraud Lawsuits Surface Against Popular Immigration Activist
While he markets himself as a defender of immigration rights, he has allegedly charged individuals thousands of dollars to file paperwork, misrepresenting his ability to help with their cases and failing to actually file any meaningful documents on their behalf. Many of his alleged clients ended up in the same, if not worse, position that they were in when they first stumbled upon him.
Now, there have been two lawsuits filed in California that accuse Cabrera of committing fraud, with three more potential suits on the horizon. They directly accuse him of styling himself as a lawyer to clients, charging them thousands of dollars in unfruitful appointments where he claimed progress was being made.
As Oswaldo Cabrera faces legal action for his alleged fraud, he still claims that all his actions were done in good faith and all money paid to him willingly donated, never charged. Despite the evidence stacked against him, he continues to operate his organization and offer immigration consulting services.
Why Immigrants Need a Lawyer, Not a Notario Publico
While this seems like an outrageous incident, it is not an isolated one. Since President Obama announced his plans to provide extended deportation protection to millions of immigrations, notarios publicos have been cropping up all over, offering uninformed immigrants alleged legal assistance even though they possess no license or training to do so. More and more individuals are losing thousands of dollars on these scams, as well as their financial means to pursue legal standing in the country.
In the U.S., only immigration lawyers and a very limited number of accredited professionals are legally allowed to assist immigrants with the filing process. Since the immigration system is so complex, it often leads immigrants to seek counsel, especially with the high stakes of legal residency on the line.
Sadly, many of the notarios publicos-or notary public-use their status as immigrants themselves to trick other immigrants into trusting them. While in many Latin American countries the term notarios publicos is used to define an individual with more broad legal authority, notary publics in the U.S. do not have this type of power and can provide no legal assistance for immigration matters.
For more information about notarios publicos, check out these past articles from Timothy Widman: