What to do if you are scammed by a notary or a lawyer does not answer your calls?

In my column this week in La OpiniónI answer questions from readers. These are general answers. Each case is different, so you should consult an attorney for personalized legal advice.

I have been a victim of a notary public who promised to fix my permanent residency. I paid him thousands of dollars to help me but he did nothing for me. How do I report this notary who defrauded me? -Mario M.

In the United States, a notary public or immigration consultant cannot give legal advice and may be penalized if he or she does so. The only function of a notary in this country is to authenticate signatures and verify documents.

An immigration consultant can only fill out forms under the instruction of the person who hires him/her. So please do not go to these people for legal advice.

If you were victimized by a notario or immigration consultant, file a complaint as soon as possible with the police department. Also notify the California Department of Justice, Office of Immigrant Assistance at 1-888-587-0557.

I have a licensed attorney in California who I have paid to represent me in immigration court. When I call to speak to him about my case, his secretary tells me he is not available and puts me through to the paralegal who proceeds to give me legal advice. Is this correct? -Carlota S.

Only the lawyer can answer your legal questions. If the lawyer lets his or her assistants give legal advice, that person may be sanctioned by the bar association where the lawyer is admitted. Call back and ask to speak to the lawyer. If the lawyer refuses to talk to you, call the State Bar of California at 1-800-843-9053 to file a complaint.

I am Salvadoran and in 2007 I stopped re-registering for TPS because I was hospitalized. Is there any way to re-register for the program? -Blanca C.

You may be able to late re-register for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program if you can demonstrate that for "good cause" you were unable to re-register on time in the past.

Having been hospitalized may fulfill this requirement. You will need proof of your hospitalization to send to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Please consult with an immigration attorney before you begin the process.