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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

ICE BREAKS UP LARGE IDENTITY THEFT RING AT POULTRY PLANTS

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Now that employers are starting to get tough on checking that employees' social security numbers match their names, some employees that are illegally in the country are getting around that by simply making sure that their names actually do match their numbers. How do they do it? They steal (or borrow since there may be some consent involved) the identity of a legal worker.



Immigration and Customs Enforcement just conducted a sweep of five chicken plants yesterday and arrested 280 workers in one such alleged identity theft scheme. The employer, Pilgrim's Pride, cooperated with ICE officials and no company employees were charged. If this sounds familiar, it is is similar to what happened in 2006 at the Swift meatpacking plants around the country. 



I certainly don't condone this. But I will say that as the pressure on workers mounts, you should expect to see more of this as well as more employers paying workers in cash. And a system that encourages identity theft or working under the table is bad public policy. We need immigration enforcement. But until we deal with the question of why employers and employees are willing to such risks, we're never going to solve the problem. The reason this is happening is pretty straightforward - we lack a legal way to meet the demands of the market. A tiny percentage of workers and employers might choose to break the law even if a legal and manageable way to import workers was available. But most would not. Until we have a workable guest worker program that matches up supply and demand, we will continue to see a black market. 



The New York Times is reporting on the sweeps as well.

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Comments

  1. Another voice's Avatar
    I guess Chertoff was not kidding when he said that he wanted to bring the public to its knees when it comes to immigration. In the meantime as if we did not have enough economic pressure chicken will be going up based on supply and demand, I doubt that unemployed Mortgage lenders and wall streeters will be applying for the chicken plant jobs.
  2. George Chell's Avatar
    "I guess Chertoff was not kidding when he said that he wanted to bring the public to its knees when it comes to immigration."

    Arizona and Oklahoma are already on their knees and still defiant..wonder how long the defiance would continue, as the Arizona legislature is forced to deal with a large budget deficit. I believe that Chertoff bringing Americans to their knees is finally beginning to bear fruits as food prices soar. Perhaps they can ask DeMint, Vitter, Rohrbacher, Steve King, Duncan Hunter and Jeff Sessions to bail them out along with Kirkrorian, Stein, Camarotta, Steve Malanga and Heather MacDonald.
  3. yave begnet's Avatar
    I would like to think the recession would cause states to rethink their anti-immigrant positions. But I am afraid the opposite may happen. Bad economic times usually call for a scapegoat, and there happen to be some handy that restrictionists already like to blame middle and working-class economic woes on: immigrants.

    ICE has played up the identity theft angle a lot in the past as a useful way of painting detainees as criminals. I can't believe all the people they arrested were guilty of this. At least, when ICE says they are going after "fugitive aliens" that usually means the target had a simple possession charge 20 years ago or got caught shoplifting as a kid. So I am skeptical about the identity theft claims, though I acknowledge SSN misuse is a problem that should be addressed. Calling it identity theft, though, lumps it in with people who steal credit card numbers and put people into bankruptcy, which is not the same thing at all.

    ICE needed a new headline after the blackface photo story resurfaced and just before the upcoming May Day rallies. Just maybe this had something to do with the timing of the raids.
  4. Mary's Avatar
    Employers and employees are willing to take risks because the laws are not vigorously enforced. Presenting a SSN not legitimately issued to the employee, even just to gain employment, is a federal felony. I'm glad these serious identity thefts are finally being paid some attention. How many millions of people have had their identity stolen and have not realized it yet?
  5. Ali's Avatar
    Why does this problem exist? Because government has failed to enforce the law and employers got the message loud and clear that they would not be held accountable. We already have several "guest worker" programs, including H2-A (no cap) and H2-B, yet employers preferred to use illegal aliens as a cheaper and easier alternative to using the programs. And don't kid yourself--Agribusiness such as Tyson's and Simplot certainly have the knowhow and the deep pockets to have lobbied for changes to these programs. Instead, companies such as these lobbied to have the laws ignored.
  6. Ali's Avatar
    "Calling it identity theft, though, lumps it in with people who steal credit card numbers and put people into bankruptcy, which is not the same thing at all."

    But that's just what this kind of crime CAN AND DOES DO. The real holder of the number is likely to eventually get a bill from the IRS for money and penalties owed for jobs he/she never worked. Do you or anyone else really want to have to fight the IRS? Particularly when there is virtually no cooperation from the SS Administration or local governments in tracking down and proving that the number was stolen?
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