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Immigration lawyer concerns

MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas - Now more than ever, undocumented individuals are seeking out immigration attorneys to help them with their legal status. But some are finding the lawyer they hired is also taking advantage of them.

Now two women - one from Temple, the other from Houston - are claiming they are the victims of one such lawyer, and that others like him need to be stopped.

For months, Adriana Juarez and Maria Paz Medrano have been buried under receipts, phone logs and court records - evidence they believe proves they were taken advantage of by Central Texas Attorney Francisco Maldonado.

"They were so ready to take the money. And whenever it came to me needing to talk to him, they would always find an excuse," says Adriana.

Maria says Maldonado told her: "'I'm going to help you. Your son's not going to go to jail.' But at the end, he did go to jail and he didn't help him. He wasn't even on file."

They say he's part of a network of lawyers who have taken thousands of dollars from people seeking immigration protections that they never received.

"I tried to help my husband at the time, but I couldn't," said Adriana. "He had five hearings all together. He only showed up to one. When he did show up, he was unprepared. So I wouldn't go. And it was all for nothing, because he never went to any of the hearings. Just that one."

Adriana's husband, who has no previous charges and who doesn't have legal status, was eventually released with the help of another attorney. But Maria has had no luck. Her son remains behind bars.

"If you can help us with our problem, then don't take money from us. Just tell us the truth."

Waco Immigration Alliance Organizer Maria Delgado says this type of legal deception often includes lawyers who demand excessive upfront fees - but miss court appointments, over-promise results and then become nearly impossible to reach.

"In our community, a lot of people just go by who they get a reference from. And in past years [some] of these attorneys have done a good job, but I think they're failing to inform the public or their clients that there isn't really a path for immigration reform at this time, and they're just taking advantage," Delgado said.

FOX 44 went to Mr. Maldonado's office so he could refute these claims, but he wasn't there. After calling his office multiple times - nothing.

"You should be ashamed because these people work very hard for their money," said Delgado. "It's just extremely frustrating."

Staff Attorney Anali Looper says there are some ways to avoid these legal situations. 

"First I would recommend hiring someone who only practices immigration law, or at least investigate if they are practicing multiple different types of law. I would question them about their expertise and immigration law, in particular," Looper said.

But with language barriers and the fear of getting into more legal trouble, the issue is far from being solved. Adriana says she feels bad for those still struggling with these lawyers, but people need to know.

"I feel so bad for the people who are still detained. That have Maldonado. Because you call him right now, and you can't even leave a voice message because it's so full."

How to Prevent Scams

http://www.stopnotariofraud.org/faq.php

Report Immigration Scams

https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-scams

State Bar of Texas

https://www.texasbar.com/

Waco Immigration Alliance

(254) 300-9423

http://wacoia.org/

https://www.facebook.com/WacoImmigrantsAlliance/


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