Notary fraud is a common set-up in which notaries unlawfully give legal advice to immigrants, and in many cases, pretend to be immigration attorneys. The scam often involves the notary reviewing a victim’s case, choosing which legal documents are appropriate for their case, helping complete these documents, and submitting them to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Office—all acts only lawyers have the authority to do.

Immigration experts and advocates say that notary fraud is one of the biggest issues facing the undocumented community. “It is also a big problem in the East Bay and surrounding areas in Northern California,” said Barbara Pinto, an immigration senior staff attorney at the Centro Legal de la Raza, a legal service agency for immigrants’ rights, located in Oakland.

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Antonio Medrano(left) is leading a "know your rights" workshop at Skyline High School in Oakland. Guadalupe Gomez is assisting him.

On Thursday morning at the youth center at Skyline High School in Oakland, about 10 women sat around a table and practiced shouting. “I want to speak with my lawyer!” demonstrated Antonio Medrano, the chapter chair of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California’s Berkeley/North East Bay chapter. He stood in front of…

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