D.C. Council Incorporates Immigrant Justice Clinic Students’ Testimony Into Anti-Notario Fraud Legislation


Rafael Hernandez, Anne Schaufele of Ayuda, Jeannesis Rodriguez, Doran Shemin, and Tiana Cherry at the D.C. City Council hearing.  Anne Schaufele '13 is an attorney at Ayuda who was very involved in promoting the bill. During her time as a student at AUWCL she participated in the Immigrant Justice Clinic.


The 16 student attorneys in the Immigrant Justice Clinic (IJC) at American University Washington College of Law are busy representing immigrants in individual cases and advocating for legislation and policies to improve their lives. This month, four IJC students got to see their hard work pay off after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law the D.C. Immigration Services Protection Act (ISPA) (also known as the notario fraud statute or the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act of 2016).

Last October, Immigrant Justice Clinic student attorneys Rafael Hernandez and Jeannesis Rodriguez testified before the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in support of the ISPA, which aims to prevent notario fraud in the District.  Notario fraud occurs when incompetent individuals offer to assist immigrants in their immigration proceedings for a fee, but then fail to provide adequate representation, sometimes leading to loss of immigration status and deportation.  In their testimony, Hernandez and Rodriguez explained the pressing need for legislation to protect the immigrant population from fraud, and also offered several suggestions for improvement based on research into similar bills in other jurisdictions. The final bill signed into law contains many of the changes the Clinic recommended, including a hotline allowing victims to report notario fraud to the authorities.

"Our students were glad to have the opportunity to testify, and were gratified that the D.C. Council responded to their comments by making changes to the bill so that it would better protect our clients and their communities,” said Professor Amanda Frost, acting director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic.

Hernandez and Rodriquez were joined by fellow Clinic students Tiana Cherry and Doran Shemin in working on the case and editing the bill. Watch the testimony before the D.C. City Council below.