What is the significance of the conviction of Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional?

In my Consulta Migratoria® column this week I explain what the ruling of Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Inc. of Panorama City means.

This is the column:

Millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States who experience firsthand the hardships and disadvantages of being here without papers recognize the value of living in the country legally. Having legal status allows them to get better jobs, higher wages and a better quality of life.

Therefore, you should be very careful to whom you entrust your legal future in the U.S. Never go to notaries, immigration consultants, paper fillers or multi-services because by law they cannot give legal advice.

Also, do not go to pro-immigrant or community activists. Although some of these people may have good intentions, advocating for immigrant rights does not mean they have the legal expertise or credentials to help you with your immigration paperwork.

Often, these individuals overstep their community functions, harming immigrants who rely on them.

So it happened with the well-known activist Gloria Saucedo, who on August 25, 2016. was condemned and sentenced by practicing law without a license to two years probation and 200 hours of community service. Her organization Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Inc. of Panorama City received a violation with a fine of $$2,000 for providing unauthorized paralegal services.

His sentence could have been harsher if he had gone to trial. But to avoid it, after months of extensions and legal maneuvering, Saucedo agreed to sign a plea bargain agreement (plea agreement) with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

Under the terms of the settlement, the prosecution reduced the charges against Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional. In exchange, she pleaded no contest before a judge to the charge of practicing law without a license.

What does "no contest" mean?

Under the California Penal Code, a "no contest" plea is tantamount to guilt.

"No contest" no means that she is innocent of the charges, as Saucedo would have people believe. It means that she does not contest the charges against her and accepts the legal consequences and sentence of the charges as if she were found guilty.

Declaring "no contest" favors Saucedo if any of the people allegedly affected by her legal malpractice would like to file a civil lawsuit against her, since she did not plead guilty in the criminal case.

The legal case against Saucedo is not yet concluded. As part of the judgment stipulated in the settlement agreement plea bargainingSaucedo has to reimburse more than $$8,000 to at least seven people who turned to her for immigration legal services and who filed complaints against her. Her attorney is appealing this decision.

What does the sentence mean for Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional?

The attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office was very clear in the negotiated settlement.. For law enforcement purposes, Saucedo is guilty as charged and now has a criminal record.

This could result in the revocation of his designation as an accredited representative by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and affect his future ability to continue providing legal services. The BIA requires a person applying for accreditation to be of good moral character - something Saucedo does not now have.

Contrary to her assurances to the press, for many years Saucedo operated without a permit to give legal advice. She only got her first partial accreditation to give immigration advice in September 2015.

Spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly of the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that Saucedo applied for accreditation only twice before in 2011 and was denied both times.

Unfortunately, despite U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) finding negative information about Saucedo in her background, the BIA approved her accreditation in 2015. Apparently, there was a communication problem between the agencies.

In light of his conviction and criminal record, I hope that USCIS and the BIA will coordinate their efforts to immediately begin an investigation into Saucedo's illegal activities over the past years and cancel his accreditation.

Why you should not use the services of Gloria Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional

Until their legal status is resolved, it is wise for people who need to make immigration arrangements not to risk their cases by going to Saucedo and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional of Panorama City.

If you need free or low-cost immigration help, there are licensed non-profit organizations that have attorneys or representatives accredited by the federal government who have not been found guilty of crimes.

Hagan click here to view the list of authorized organizations and BIA accredited representatives.

Please visit these places only if you are in need. If you have the means to hire the services of an immigration attorney in private practice, be considerate and do not take the place of a low-income person who truly needs the help of a non-profit organization.

When hiring a lawyer or BIA-accredited representative, make sure he or she is licensed and experienced. Do not hire a legal professional just because he or she offers the lowest price. More often than not, cheap is expensive.

If you or someone you know has been victimized by Gloria Saucedo, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional or persons associated with this organization, call the investigators at Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs Annette Gonzalez at 323-881-7099, or Janet Godoy at 213-974-7241.