According to one attorney and notary, the confusion of a notary public stems from how the job title sounds very similar in Spanish, which leads many to believe that they provide the same services.
Rosa Coss has been a notary public for the past 18 years but catches herself almost every day being asked the same question.
“There’s always somebody coming in asking if we do immigration documents and of course the answer is no,” said Coss.
With the Rio Grande Valley right on the border, there’s often confusion.
“In Mexico, they’re more like attorneys and they can draft documents, they can help you through proceedings,” said Asst. Starr County Attorney, Javier Pena. “So, when Mexicans come over, they see notary public they think it’s the same thing as Mexico.”
But in the U.S. legal system, a notary public has limited duties as Pena said they can only attest to docket the authenticity of the documents and authenticate signatures.
The attorney said people are taken advantage of because of the confusion.
“Charge people for things that they’re not allowed legally to do and in the immigration arena that happens quite a bit,” said Pena.
45-year-old Juana Rodriguez, a notary public, was arrested this week in Starr County for scamming people out of thousands of dollars pretending to be an immigration attorney.
Pena advises reaching out to someone who specializes in immigration.
In addition, if someone says they can provide legal services, you should always verify they’re a licensed attorney in the state on the State Bar of Texas website.