Identity theft is another reason to enforce immigration laws | NevadaAppeal.com

Identity theft is another reason to enforce immigration laws

Guy Farmer
For the Appeal

When federal immigration agents detained more than 1,200 workers at Swift meat packing plants in six states in mid-December, so-called “immigration advocates” started yelling and screaming about alleged violations of the illegal immigrants’ “rights.” I have a question for those advocates: What part of “illegal” don’t you understand?

According to the respected Christian Science Monitor, “The latest roundup of illegal immigrants caught working in the U.S. with fraudulent identifications – the largest single such work-site action ever – raises new questions about a link between illegal immigration and the growing problem of identity theft.” Think about that the next time someone tries to tell you that illegal immigration isn’t a problem.

And think not only about identity fraud, but also about the well-established link between illegal immigration and massive drug trafficking, considering that Mexico is a major source for the lethal methamphetamine pouring into Nevada and the rest of our country. As I’ve written, most of my court interpreting clients are illegal immigrants who are involved with illicit drugs. Federal and state law enforcement officers know that illegal immigration and drug trafficking go hand-in-hand. Clearly, it’s a national security issue.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) officials hope that some of the newly arrested Swift workers will lead federal investigators to “document rings” that provide stolen identities. The 10-month investigation began last February when ICE learned that large numbers of illegals were using Social Security numbers assigned to American citizens, and many of them were using the same numbers.

“We believe that the genuine identities of hundreds of U.S. citizens are being stolen or hijacked by criminal organizations and sold to illegal aliens in order to gain unlawful employment in this country,” said ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, calling it “a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration.”

The Monitor asserted that the false ID business is thriving in Phoenix, Ariz., a major immigrant-smuggling hub. Federal and state investigators estimate that more than 1,000 “coyotes” (smugglers) stash thousands of illegal immigrants throughout Greater Phoenix, where they wait until false ID and transportation can be arranged to places as far away as Miami and Seattle, and as near as neighboring Nevada.

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Arizona Liquor License Department Director Leesa Morrison told the Monitor that her agency’s undercover agents have purchased more than 1,000 fraudulent immigration documents since last July. “What’s frightening,” she added, “is that they’re able to purchase a three-pack – a driver’s license, a Social Security card and a permanent resident (green) card – for about $160 on the street.” Think about it.

Now I’d like to know what ICE is going to do about Swift & Company, which will undoubtedly argue that they didn’t realize that so many of their workers were illegal. I favor a big fine because the Feds should crack down on companies that knowingly hire and exploit illegal immigrants. Even though many businesses are participating in a new national test program to verify employees’ Social Security numbers, too many big companies – including some Nevada casinos – still hire illegals without requiring valid IDs.

THE PROBLEM IN NEVADA

When the 2007 Legislature convenes in February, freshman Assemblyman Ty Cobb (R-Reno) will introduce a bill that would deny driver’s licenses, non-emergency medical care, unemployment benefits and Nevada millennium scholarships to those who can’t prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency in Nevada. And it contains a provision that would require illegal immigrants who are charged with crimes to help pay for court interpreters (and they should also pay for court-appointed public defenders).

Cobb’s legislation would go a long way toward closing the multi-million-dollar gap between the social costs of illegal immigration and what the illegals contribute to our state’s economy. For example, how much is CarsonÐTahoe Regional Medical Center spending on routine medical care for illegal immigrants and their families?

The Legislature should also consider public education. With Carson’s Hispanic population approaching 20 percent, we’re entitled to know how much our cash-strapped school district is spending to educate the Spanish-speaking children of illegal immigrants. No wonder our local schools are falling short of federal No Child Left Behind standards. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good thing to speak foreign languages, but under NCLB, the Feds should subsidize basic English instruction for Spanish-speaking schoolchildren. You go, Ty! And a Happy New Year to one and all.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired diplomat who occasionally works as an English/Spanish courtroom interpreter.