2                       AT THE MEETING OF THE  
 3                     NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF               
 4                            BAR COUNSEL  
18                     Saturday, August 2, 1997  
20                      San Francisco Marriott  
21                     San Francisco, California  
 1                                               11:07 a.m.  
 2        ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO:  Thank you very  
 3    much.  And thank you all.  
 4        I am delighted to have the opportunity to  
 5    be here with you today because I'm asking for  
 6    something, and I hope to even give something in  
 7    return, to effect an outcome --  
 8        The work you do to ensure that the legal  
 9    profession abides by the highest standards of  
10    conduct is very important.  It is vital that we,  
11    as attorneys, set an example and maintain the  
12    confidence of our clients and the general public.  
13        And, for 16 years, as State Attorney in  
14    Miami, I know the issues and I know and I know how  
15    important it was to be able to work with our  
16    counsel. And we need to provide -- and I would  
17    welcome your input on my comments today.  
18        I would welcome today any questions you  
19    may have but I would also welcome, on a continuing  
20    basis, any questions you have as to how we might  
21    improve the working relationships between Bar  
22    Counsel and the Office of Professional  
23    Responsibility with respect to the Justice  
24    Department lawyers.  
25        This is one of my highest priorities and  
 1    I, indeed, welcome any ideas you have as to what  
 2    we can do to improve our efforts and to improve  
 3    our cooperation with you.  
 4        I understand that, at your conference  
 5    this week, you have been discussing expanding  
 6    cooperation across state lines in the area of  
 7    attorney discipline, including reciprocal attorney  
 8    disbarments and multiple agency cooperation. I am  
 9    going to be interested -- discussions and results  
10    because I believe that cooperative efforts such as  
11    these are a key to combating the serious problem  
12    of unscrupulous practitioners. Fraudulent and  
13    unethical behavior is a serious blight on our  
14    professions and, as people cross state lines -- is  
15    it, as you know, more important than ever that we  
16    -- the most comprehension of such problems.  
17        I come here today to enlist your support  
18    in tackling an issue that is of growing concern  
19    across the country and to me personally:  the  
20    victimization of immigrants by unscrupulous  
21    immigration practitioners, both lawyers and non-  
22    lawyers.  
23        I come with the perspective that I  
24    suspect that many of you share.  My father came to  
25    this country when he was 12 years old.  He spoke  
 1    no English when he moved here from --  
 2        Four years later, he was editor of the  
 3    high school newspaper and he spent years writing  
 4    beautiful English for the Miami Herald as a  
 5    political reporter.  So immigration and immigrants  
 6    are very dear to my heart and those who would take  
 7    advantage of them are those that I would like to  
 8    focus on.  
 9        Let me give you an example of what I mean  
10    in terms of this problem.  Last year, in my  
11    hometown of Miami, nearly 100 immigrants, many of  
12    them elderly, dealt with a man who promised to  
13    file citizenship applications on their behalf.    
14        Understand the setting.  The Welfare Act  
15    had passed.  They were worried they were going to  
16    lose their benefits, they were here legally, they  
17    had contributed and their families had  
18    contributed.  They gave him money for filing fees  
19    and for the processing costs, and they believed he  
20    would shepherd the applications from there.  
21        Instead of filing their applications,  
22    however, he took their money and never forwarded  
23    anything to the INS.  The immigrants lost their  
24    money and found themselves no closer to the U.S.  
25    citizenship they so desired than they were before  
 1    they started.  
 2        Fortunately, the INS was able to assist  
 3    many of those who were defrauded but hundreds of  
 4    thousands of others are not so lucky.  Every day  
 5    gross numbers of unwary immigrants are defrauded  
 6    and abused by unethical practitioners whose sole  
 7    aim is greed and monetary gain.  These  
 8    practitioners literally prey on immigrants, so  
 9    many of them, especially those who are here  
10    unlawfully, are ill-informed about the law and  
11    unlikely to complain to the authorities.  
12        Much of the unscrupulous immigration  
13    practice involves practitioners who file  
14    fraudulent applications, apply for benefits they  
15    know that the client are inelligible for, or they  
16    accept fees for services never provided.  Often,  
17    these practitioners have only a tacit knowledge of  
18    the applicable immigration law and regulations.    
19        How do we respond?  Well, ten years ago,  
20    I'll tell you what the response was: of all the  
21    agencies involved, the local prosecutor's office,  
22    the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Immigration and  
23    Naturalization Service or, indeed, the FBI, the  
24    one agency that was trying to respond was the  
25    Florida Bar.  The Florida Bar was on the scene  
 1    trying to figure out what could be done.  They  
 2    pointed out that much of the problem that was  
 3    ongoing involved the unauthorized practice of law  
 4    and they were limited in what they could do.  
 5        "They're breaking the law, then why don't  
 6    we do something?"  Well, I said, "Well, I think  
 7    that's a good idea." Then they could get into it  
 8    and ask the police department to investigate, and  
 9    they say, "But, Janet, I don't know anything about  
10    Immigration and Naturalization law, I can't tell  
11    what's fraud and what's not fraud.  I call the FBI  
12    and they say they're too busy to handle it and I  
13    called the U.S. Attorney's Office and they would  
14    say, `Well, we're too busy.'"  
15        I don't think that we can let people be  
16    victims of such thieving fraud and be too busy not  
17    to handle it and just following up with what's  
18    part of our --  
19        It seems to me that the other agencies  
20    should reach out, as I am reaching out to you  
21    today, to find out how we can cooperate and what  
22    we can do better and more effective in  
23    coordinating efforts.  
24        And so, to address this problem, I have  
25    created a working group in the Department of  
 1    Justice to explore both enhancement enforcement  
 2    against violators and intensified educational  
 3    outreach to the immigration communities most at  
 4    risk of abuse.  
 5        As many of these scams constitute a  
 6    violation of state, if not federal, law, I have  
 7    asked the group to reach out to state and local  
 8    prosecutors, state bars, and immigrant service  
 9    organizations to see how we can work together to  
10    combat unscrupulous immigration scams.   
11         Immigration fraud is a national problem  
12    but the solution must be tailored to the local  
13    level if we are to succeed.  
14        Together can punish this fraud through  
15    enforcement efforts at both the state and federal  
16    level.  On the state level, you, through the state  
17    bar, can disbar or otherwise sanction unethical  
18    attorneys and publicize your actions, thereby  
19    deterring other unscrupulous lawyers.  Where the  
20    case merits prosecuting for fraud, theft, or  
21    violations of consumer protection laws, you can  
22    refer those cases to local prosecutors, whether  
23    the practitioner is an attorney or not.  
24        And your question basically, "Why should  
25    I refer to the local prosecutor if I'm going to  
 1    get the same answer that you gave the Florida bar  
 2    when you were in Miami?"  And that's what we're  
 3    trying to do, is to try to reach out to national  
 4    District Attorneys Associations to coordinate  
 5    activities with local prosecutors and the U.S.  
 6    Attorney to make sure that we are effective in  
 7    taking prosecutorial action.  
 8        Immigration is unique in that it involves  
 9    both attorney and non-attorney practitioners.  The  
10    non-attorney practitioners include both  
11    representatives who are certified by the  
12    Department of Justice to appear in immigration  
13    court as well as other non-lawyer providers of  
14    immigration services.  While many of these non-  
15    attorney practitioners are experienced and provide  
16    valuable services to immigrants, a large number  
17    are either unqualified to offer services or are  
18    engaged in outright fraud.  
19        I know that state bars typically have  
20    little or no authority over non-attorneys, but  
21    where cases involving fraud by non-attorneys come  
22    to your attention, I urge you to report to your  
23    state or local prosecutors.  And what we want to  
24    do is, particularly in the states with large  
25    immigrant populations, we want to develop wide  
 1    communication that is suitable to your states so  
 2    that you'll know who to call and where to go  
 3    without being referred from one person to the  
 4    next.  
 5        I understand that, in some states, the  
 6    state bar can seek civil injunctions against the  
 7    unauthorized practice of law and, where this is  
 8    possible, I would encourage such efforts to stop  
 9    unscrupulous immigration practices.  
10        And we're not trying -- we would like to  
11    work with you in trying to provide whatever  
12    information is helpful or, even more  
13    appropriately, we would like to pursue it.  
14        The other point that I would like for you  
15    to consider is, should we consider legislation  
16    that would give the federal authorities -- the  
17    federal problem, in -- state bar.  
18        On the federal side, there are  
19    possibilities for both criminal and civil  
20    penalties, although federal jurisdiction over  
21    fraud is limited.  In addition, there are  
22    administrative procedures for disciplining  
23    immigration practitioners, both attorneys and non-  
24    attorneys.    
25        We are presently working on a regulation  
 1    to strengthen this disciplinary process for  
 2    attorneys and accredited representatives who  
 3    practice before the immigration courts and the  
 4    INS.  Once published, this regulation would  
 5    provide for stronger and more consistent sanctions  
 6    against practitioners who file fraudulent  
 7    applications, charge excessive fees, or provide  
 8    the ineffective assistance of counsel.  
 9        And I think we should reach out to you  
10    and make sure that your concerns -- to this  
11    regulation.    
12        In addition to improving enforcement  
13    efforts, our working group will also work to  
14    educate immigrants as to the danger the fraudulent  
15    schemes pose.  Together, working with local and  
16    national immigrant advocacy groups, we will foster  
17    outreach in large immigrant communities to both  
18    warn immigrants of unscrupulous practitioners and  
19    help them identify qualified and reputable sources  
20    of assistance.  
21        We are convinced that, if immigrant  
22    communities are better informed of their rights  
23    and opportunities under the law, fewer people will  
24    succumb to the lure of fraudulent schemes.   And I  
25    believe we can use some -- in this regard.  
 1        Shortly after taking office, I visited in  
 2    Omaha, Nebraska.  An immigrant advocacy group  
 3    asked to meet with me.  I was -- but Nebraska  
 4    decided a large meat-packing industry -- Mexican  
 5    immigrants.  
 6    I met with him; he told me the problem of -- but  
 7    rather than complaining, they told me what they  
 8    had done to help -- by going out and saying,  
 9    "You've got this outreach -- and you'll get much  
10    better results."  We think, if you -- you can be  
11    ever more effective.    
12        We need your assistance as we develop and  
13    disseminate educational materials to consumers of  
14    immigration services.  We also need your help in  
15    reaching out to non-attorney providers of those  
16    services to educate them regarding their limits of  
17    activities under state rules governing the  
18    practice of law.  
19        If we join together to pursue the federal  
20    goals of enforcement and outreach, we would be so  
21    much more effective and you won't have the  
22    prosecutors who say, "Well, I guess we'll have to  
23    go the feds."   And the feds say, "Well, that's  
24    really a local problem." and then you're stuck  
25    with this again.  
 1        Hopefully, we can prevent the problem  
 2    from falling in the cracks.  But we must deter and  
 3    punish those who are taking advantage of this  
 4    often vulnerable population in our society.  
 5        This is particularly true now, as I  
 6    pointed out earlier, when many immigrants are  
 7    faced with tough new restrictions on legal  
 8    immigration and government benefits due to these  
 9    immigration and welfare reform acts.  
10        It is just a very depressing, touching  
11    moment if you're stopped on the street and have  
12    someone say, "My mother is here; she is here  
13    legally, she works here, but she is a permanent  
14    resident and she has never been naturalized.  What  
15    is going to happen to her if she is in a nursing  
16    home?"  That's the vulnerability that we're  
17    talking about.  
18        As legal opportunities for benefits and  
19    relief from deportation diminish, more and more  
20    immigrants will fall prey to scams that promise a  
21    'green card' with no strings attached but a  
22    substantial fee.  
23        We are going to do all within our power  
24    and jurisdiction and yet we recognize that we can  
25    only do so much by ourselves.  We need your help  
 1    and would like to work with you in every way  
 2    possible and we appreciate your suggestions.  
 3        If there are ways that the Justice  
 4    Department can specifically help you, in your case  
 5    law, function more effectively in your efforts to  
 6    sanction and deter  unscrupulous immigration  
 7    attorneys, we want to hear more about those  
 8    actions and your suggestions.   
 9        The Immigration and Naturalization  
10    Service, is an agency for whom I have profound  
11    respect.  When I came into office four years ago,  
12    I discovered, compared to other agencies in the  
13    government -- int terms of staffing, in terms of  
14    technical infrastructure, in terms of management  
15    structure.  In these four years, they've addressed  
16    those issues and the need to -- and they -- placed  
17    on it.  They continue to do a good job.  But we  
18    must work with you and make sure that we have --  
19    communications so that you don't get sent from one  
20    person to the next to try to find out how you can  
21    work with us.  
22        Perhaps it would help if we designated an  
23    immigration judge or an INS official, or both, in  
24    key states to work with bar counsel and serve as a  
25    point of contact, as needed.  Perhaps you would  
 1    like the Justice Department to brief your local  
 2    unauthorized practice of law committee on actions  
 3    we are taking with other state bar counsels or  
 4    local prosecutors.  Perhaps you have ideas about  
 5    how to conduct an educational campaign in your  
 6    state aimed at warning immigrants about possible  
 7    scams or letting individuals know where and how to  
 8    file a complaint against an unscrupulous  
 9    immigration practitioner.  
10        Perhaps you could set up a system whereby  
11    the immigration judges or the INS can refer cases  
12    to a designated member of your state bar counsel.   
13    Perhaps there are other, or more far-reaching,  
14    actions we can explore together.  
15        You may want to take a jurisdiction like  
16    south Florida and let us put together a -- of  
17    local prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys, INS  
18    officials, and various -- to see how you can work  
19    together.  
20        No matter what the process of the  
21    solution, I promise you we will listen and follow  
22    through and, if we don't, my telephone number is  
23    202-514-2002.  It's 202-514-2002.  
24        One -- didn't believe me believe me until  
25    he tried one day and I called him back and he was  
 1    a believer.  And I really had followed through.   
 2    As a prosecutor in Miami, I tried to return all my  
 3    phone calls and tried to follow though.  I can't  
 4    do that for everybody in this country, but it is  
 5    through people like you that I continue to  
 6    understand what's going on in the field and what  
 7    peope are facing throughout the front lines.  
 8        In our effort of cooperation, we have met  
 9    with members of the National District Attorneys  
10    Association and the National Association of  
11    Attorneys General.  We have contacted the state  
12    bar associations in Florida, New York, California,  
13    and Texas.  We are developing both prongs of our  
14    initiative, enforcement and outreach, with input  
15    from as wide a range of persons as possible:  
16    immigration advocacy groups, the American  
17    Immigration Lawyers Association, individual  
18    immigration attorneys, the American Bar  
19    Association, and state committees on the  
20    unauthorized practice of law.  
21        We want your input, your suggestions, and  
22    your thoughts, both today and over the coming  
23    weeks and months; and I have my pencil ready.   
24    When you return to your homes states, please share  
25    my goals with your colleagues.  Join forces with  
 1    us to attack these fraudulent actions that only  
 2    diminish our legal profession in the eyes of the  
 3    public and leave a vulnerable population ill-  
 4    served.  These individuals, many of whom are legal  
 5    permanent residents of the United States and who  
 6    have lived and worked in and contributed to our  
 7    nation for years, deserve to know that we are  
 8    looking out for them.  
 9        We have a long and honorable tradition in  
10    the land of opportunity and as a residence for  
11    immigrants from around the world.   Immigrants  
12    bring energy, often as diverse experiences, that's  
13    long been part of our nation's strength.  
14        I went to Cornell University in --  When  
15    I came home in 1960 I saw the area that is now  
16    known as Little -- and I couldn't quite grasp --   
17    When I came home from law school, it was a little  
18    bit more obvious.  When I was appointed the State  
19    Attorney in 1978, the first thing I did was to  
20    start practicing my Spanish again.  And I saw  
21    young lawyers come into the office who were -- who  
22    were making such a difference.  
23        When I left Miami in 1993, it was one of  
24    the greatest international -- of the world -- with  
25    the optimism, with energy with the residents that  
 1    is a classic -- to this nation.  
 2        We always -- seems to become a part of  
 3    our American family, but are prevented from doing  
 4    so by opportunists that exploit weakness and  
 5    vulnerability for financial gain.  We owe it to  
 6    our profession and to our country -- this  
 7    unethical practice and uphold the spirit of the  
 8    law --  
 9        I'll be free to answer any questions you  
10    have, or even more importantly, to take your  
11    suggestions, but I just want you to know that  
12    Jennifer Barnes, the Associate General Counsel of  
13    the Executive Office for Immigration Review in  
14    Washington, D.C., who is a member of our working  
15    group on this issue and a member of NOBC, will be  
16    available to speak with you, as well, today after  
17    this conference ends to give you more information  
18    about our efforts and to let you know how to  
19    contact our working group and make any suggestions  
20    you have as to how we can develop an effective  
21    client communication and increased cooperation.  
22        Thank you so much for giving me the  
23    opportunity to speak with you.  And, let me put it  
24    this way, if you were the Attorney General of the  
25    United States, what would you do to support your  
 1    efforts and build a better working relationship?  
 2        (Applause.)  
 3        (Whereupon, at 11:28 a.m., the prepared  
 4                remarks ceased.)   
 1                      C E R T I F I C A T E  
 3        This is to certify that the attached  
 4    proceedings in the matter of:  
 6    Name of Proceeding:  
 8                     THE MEETING OF THE NATIONAL  
 9                     ORGANIZATION OF BAR COUNSEL  
10    Docket Number:         N/A  
11    Place of Proceeding:   SAN FRANCISCO,  
13    Date of Proceeding:    August 2, 1997  
16    were held as herein appears, and that this is the  
17    original transcript thereof for the file of the  
18    Department of Justice taken by me and, thereafter  
19    reduced to typewriting by me or under my  
20    direction.  
24                     _____________________________________  
25                                  Margaret Devers