Holland man agrees to stop handling immigration documents

but denies he improperly represented himself

By Nate Reens | The Grand Rapids Press

January 28, 2010, 9:50PM

HOLLAND — A notary public accused of acting as a qualified immigration attorney has agreed to stop preparing and submitting immigration-related documents as part of a settlement, court records show.

Elias Cruz Ortiz, 77, denied all allegations that he improperly represented his professional duties, but surrendered his notary public license and will stop advising people on immigration matters.

Ortiz owned and operated Servicios Mundo Hispano, which he has since closed in the wake of the claim in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

The Holland man was sued by Farmworker Legal Services on behalf of Rodolfo Rubio, who paid $500 for an immigration petition Ortiz was not authorized or qualified to prepare.  Megan Reynolds, who represented Rubio, said it is unclear how many people Ortiz assisted over decades of opening and closing various offices in the Holland area.  Each of his clients could face immigration problems because Ortiz used his business address and that could result in missed notices and the start of deportation proceedings.

“There are serious consequences possible here and it’s important to make sure that there’s no confusion about a person’s level of education and professional ability,” Reynolds said.

Miles Murphy, Ortiz’s attorney, said his client is a “longtime upstanding member of the community.”

“He categorically denies any improper conduct,” Murphy said.

Ortiz could not be reached for comment.

An injunction barring Ortiz from immigration work stipulates he will pay $5,000 for offenses of the court order.  Reynolds claimed Ortiz violated the state’s Immigration Clerical Assistant Act that mandates non-attorneys who provide services or advice to register with the government.

Ortiz did not claim he was not an attorney and was not the equivalent of a notario publico, a title in Latin American countries refers to a person who has obtained a law license, Reynolds said.

E-mail Nate Reens: nreens@grpress.com