The State Bar of California has been receiving reports of attorneys and immigration consultants taking payments from clients to help them apply for citizenship under the new federal immigration reform bill. Only problem — the federal immigration reform bill does not yet exist.
"We have countless examples of attorneys and consultants who have advertised as telling people to come in and sign them up as clients in order to apply for legalization status that doesn't exist yet and may never exist," said California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
Under current law, Gonzalez said, that practice is unethical, but not illegal. She's introduced Assembly Bill 1159 to change that. Under the proposed law, any money paid now for services that could only be useful if immigration reform is passed would have to be refunded if the law doesn't pan out.
It also makes attorneys spell out exactly what they're charging for. If the law passes, the State Bar plans to create a tip line for suspicious practices like these. Anyone violating the proposed law would face fines of up to a thousand dollars a day. Gonzalez is trying to fast track the bill through the senate and assembly, and hopes to send it to the governor in the next few weeks. The bill will be considered by the Senate's Judiciary Committee Monday.