In the midst of our holiday season, we must not lose sight of the harsh reality that far too many of our neighbors continue to lose their homes through foreclosure – a challenge that we all have a personal stake in overcoming.

The foreclosure crisis still gripping our nation is a formidable obstacle to our economic recovery. All told, more than 2.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since the “Great Recession” started in December 2007. Another 3.3 million homes could be lost to foreclosure during the next four years.

In October, there were an estimated 25 percent more foreclosures nationally than in October 2009.

This foreclosure crisis will not vanish on its own; and its impact will not be limited to people who bought homes they could not afford. We must continue to do all we can to stop the tide.

Locally, I will be hosting my fifth Foreclosure Prevention Seminar on Dec. 18 at Woodlawn Senior High School in Gwynn Oak. Homeowners interested in attending can register online at www.cummings.house.gov.

The purpose of these workshops is to help people who are delinquent on their mortgages and facing potential foreclosure get the information and resources they need to hold onto their homes. Experts will provide assistance to people who are seeking to re-finance or who need reductions in their current monthly mortgage payments or interest rates.

Even as we work to save our neighbors’ homes here in Baltimore, the avalanche of foreclosures has revealed serious legal issues, as well economic hardship, both nationally and here in Maryland.

News reports suggest that some banks and mortgage servicing companies have decided to handle foreclosures at breakneck speed in order to reap as much profit as possible. As a result, mistakes are being made, both accidentally and intentionally.

Examples of banks and loan servicing companies ignoring or contravening laws governing the foreclosure process have been found in every state.

Foreclosure paperwork is being signed with no oversight nor inspection. In some cases, critical documents have even been created out of thin air after being lost in the electronic system – and, then, illegally notarized.

Some banks and loan servicers have admitted to engaging in these defective practices. They insist, however, that the legal defects in their foreclosure claims are merely technical.

I disagree. For any family falling victim to these failures to follow the law, the law’s foreclosure rules are not mere technicalities. They are due process protections designed to protect the biggest investment of our lives.

As a nation, we must do better than this. Homeowners who are current in their payments, those legitimately seeking mortgage modifications and those who paid cash for their homes must not have their American dream turned into a nightmare.

Every foreclosure should be closely scrutinized. Our fundamental right to due process is at stake.

That is why I called upon Maryland’s governor and attorney general in October to take immediate action to ensure that no Maryland family is unjustifiably evicted or denied due process. We then joined with the entire Maryland congressional delegation to urge Maryland’s highest court to do its part in defending the integrity of our laws.

The Maryland Court of Appeals wasted no time enacting emergency rules to address the flaws plaguing our system.

As a result of these rules, attorneys filing questionable paperwork must now appear personally before a court to file “corrective affidavits” admitting that the original affidavits they submitted (declaring personal knowledge of the underlying documents and facts) were not actually signed by them.

In Washington, I have recommended to my congressional colleagues that they, too, ask their state courts to intervene. I have pointed out that the law should apply equally to banks and homeowners.

This is not a question of Black or White, rich or poor. It is an issue of what is right and what is clearly wrong.

As elected officials, we are charged with doing all that we can to protect those who placed their trust in us. That is why I will remain vigilant, working with Gov. O’Malley, Attorney General Gansler, our Court of Appeals and our Legislature until we stop fraudulent foreclosure practices.

Together, we can do a better job of protecting our neighbors’ homes – and our own.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.