DECEMBER 13, 2006
Thousands of illegal immigrants across the nation have been arrested for stealing the identities of United States citizens to obtain jobs in a massive identity theft ring that highlights the weakness of a federal program used by employers to verify immigration law compliance.
In an effort to clean up the mess of a faulty employment authorization system, federal authorities raided meat-packing plants in six states where thousands of illegal immigrants used the stolen identities of Americans to obtain work “legally.” Besides the rampant immigration violations, many of those arrested had criminal warrants.
Identity theft among illegal immigrants is a new and growing trend that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say has already victimized thousands of Americans across the country. The crisis was even discussed in a summer Congressional debate when senators described unemployed at-home mothers who received large tax bills for jobs in other states held by illegal immigrants who stole their Social Security numbers.
The federal government is supposed to protect Americans against such crimes with a highly touted program, called Basic Pilot, that allows employers in every state to verify the immigration status and therefore employment authorization of every worker. Operated by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Social Security Administration, the database features an automated system to verify authorization of all new hires.
Employers say Basic Pilot’s major flaw is that, while it identifies illegal aliens who submit fake Social Security numbers or immigration documents, it does not detect legitimate Social Securities even when they are used by various employees. In fact, the owners of the multi million-dollar meatpacking plant raided this week, assure that Basic Pilot is used to approve all employees.
In the meantime, immigration advocates concerned about the criminal aliens can rest assured that they will get due process. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department has pledged to ensure that any Mexicans arrested in the raids have their human rights fully respected and are given all the necessary assistance, orientation and consular protection.
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