The gold dome on the Capitol in Denver.

Photo: CPR/Hart Van Denburg

Colorado will likely soon have a new law on the books because of a word that is lost in translation.

In some Spanish-speaking countries, the word notario means an attorney or a highly trained legal specialist, but that is not what "notary" means in the United States. Unscrupulous people who describe themselves as notarios can capitalize on this confusion and hold themselves out as immigration specialists in this country. The deception has cost immigrants in Colorado thousands of dollars and split apart families.

State Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat who represents northwest Denver, sponsored a bipartisan bill in the last legislative session to crack down on deceptive notarios. Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice bill into law soon. 

Pabon spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. Click the audio link above to hear their conversation and read highlights below:

Pabon on how the new law can help immigrants and their families:

“There are hundreds of victims in Colorado and thousands in the United States who are susceptible to this type of fraud and scam artist. What we set out to do in this bill is to make it very clear who can offer these kinds of services and who can’t.”

Victim Christine Saldivar on how a bad notario victimized her family:

“The bad legal advice we received has cost Jorge, our children and myself almost 12 years of heartache.”

Pabon on not seeking input on the bill from notarios:

“We did speak to many of the folks who work in this field -- paralegals, those types of things -- but the notarios themselves we didn’t talk to.”

Pabon on why a population without legal status merits protection:

“It’s actually not necessarily about protecting these folks all together. It’s about protecting all Colorado residents whether they are here legally or not. They are still Colorado residents. Many of these people still pay taxes. They still use our roads. They still contribute to our economy. And so, just like any other vulnerable population, we should provide them with the same protections that all vulnerable populations have.”