by AILA Board of Governors member Leslie Holman

“Hooking up” on the Internet may result in an unintended coupling that has nothing to do with finding love.

A few years ago my teenaged daughter was horrified when I asked her and her group of friends whether they were going to hook up with others after the movies. Her friends started to giggle and in one of those “you are so out of it voices” she said, “Mom, I don’t think you mean that.” I learned that hooking up had acquired another meaning, much in the same way that in the ghetto it is good to be “phat” and in the south bad to be “nice.”

According to Wikipedia, which is clearly more up to date than I am, “hooking up” has several meanings, the most recent of which is: To meet up. A slang term for courtship, especially of short duration. Those looking for love hope to, and often do, hook up on the Internet. Those of us practicing family based immigration law are all too familiar with these types of hook ups, although and with any luck, their duration will not be short. Because we must prove the legitimacy of the relationship to the CIS we explore the circumstances of the electronic connection. We also advise those who come to us before they solemnize their relationships to diligently explore them so that they know that the love connection is real.

Hooking up also means: Making a connection, especially an electrical connection.” Similarly, a hook up is an electrical connector. Like their clients, many immigration attorneys also use the Internet as matchmaker. However, their goal is to develop and spark a business rather than a love relationship. They can and do legitimately advertise their services on the Internet with or through an advertising service that promises to link them to sites that will promote their practices. They too are hooking up.

However, just as we caution our clients to be wary of their romantic links, immigration lawyers must also be wary of their business links. Not every site that promises immigration services or advice is one with which a legitimate immigration attorney would want to be linked.

Far too many are merely portals promoting the unauthorized practice of immigration law. It behooves those sites to be linked to legitimate AILA members because the implied association lends them legal credibility.

Links may appear automatically and without the knowledge of the legitimate practitioner by virtue of the fact that he or she paid for a web based advertising package that as stated by Ads by Google promises to link “people who are interested in information related to your products or services.” What does that mean? Not all immigration sites are created equal. To minimize the risk of ending up on an unsavory site perhaps it is possible to determine if:

· It is possible to opt out of a link

· The time it will take to remove an offending link

· The advertiser provides notice of all links once they are made

· You can designate certain sites or types of sites or tags to which you don’t want to be linked

I doubt that with the size and speed of today’s Internet we will ever again be completely free from the threat of guilt by association. However, taking adequate precautions before hooking up is clearly the best way to avoid accidents regardless of which definition of the term you are using.