by Howard Stephenson


In the previous pair of immigration articles we have demonstrated two critical facts about the illegal immigration dilemma in Utah:  First, that due in part to a perpetually strengthening economy in which available jobs far outnumber our available workforce, Utah has a significant need for international guest workers to fill critical jobs.  Second, because the federal government has failed to produce an immigration policy that matches the needs of our economy for guest workers, thousands of the vacant jobs in Utah have been filled by individuals who are in this country illegally.  This has led to many complex challenges for the people in our state; challenges that we said are not likely to be solved except through comprehensive reform.  We suggested that an immigration summit involving Utah’s congressional delegation, legislature, governor, and other affected parties could stimulate the public dialogue necessary to develop real solutions.
The purpose of this week’s article is to describe how identify fraud is growing as a result of illegal immigration and how identity fraud victims are affected by illegal immigration.
The Identity Fraud Victim
Among all the other individuals who are affected by the illegal immigration dilemma – the undocumented worker, the legal immigrant, U.S. citizens, people in law enforcement, etc. –, the identity fraud victim may seem like an unusual and an irrelevant choice to write about.  But the truth is, it is the identity fraud victim in this country whom society has unsympathetically sold out and the federal government has indifferently forsaken in the name of economic prosperity.   Here is why:
When an undocumented worker applies for a job, he must include with the application some form of identification, otherwise there is likely no chance that a reputable company will hire him.  An individual in this country illegally, therefore, must attain some form of forged identification to find employment, and that is usually done by stealing another person’s identification.  Hence, the term undocumented in this instance may be considered a misnomer, because the immigrant does come to the job site with some form of documentation; it just isn’t his own documentation.  It is someone else’s information, most likely a Social Security number, which he is using illegally and (obviously) without the consent or knowledge of the true owner.
According to Richard G. Hamp,  Assistant Attorney General of Utah with the Financial Crimes Prosecution Unit, obtaining a fraudulent Social Security number and identity card is incredibly simple for the immigrant.  Hamp said that on the street, $20.00 will easily buy someone a fraudulent Social Security card and number.  Or, if one is willing, Hamp continued, he can buy a “package deal” for $60.00 to $80.00.  The package deal includes a counterfeit Social Security card and number, and a resident alien (green card) identification card with photo identification.  By acquiring both of these forged documents, the illegal immigrant is then able to show a potential employer the two forms of identification necessary for I-9 purposes.
It is at this point where the identity fraud victim ultimately becomes the casualty at the expense of other people’s gains.  This is because after the illegal immigrant has acquired the fraudulent documents, he is able to find employment; when the employer receives the forged documents from the immigrant, they are capable of filling the job that the employers have been desperate to fill; and when the employer’s organization has produced the good or service by employing the immigrant, the consumer can purchase and enjoy the product or service.  But, the individual who initially had his or her identity stolen by the illegal worker to start this cycle in the first place, ends up in an incredibly unfortunate situation.
The Destructive Effects of Identity Fraud
The destructive results of having one’s identity stolen are fairly well known:  Identity fraud severely damages a person’s credit, which can hinder his ability to obtain loans, mortgages and – in some drastic cases – employment.  Moreover, the whole ordeal of having one’s identity stolen is extremely time consuming:  Mr. Hamp estimated that it takes approximately 600 hours of arduous work to clear up one’s credit following an identity theft.  In recent months, however, Hamp indicated that there are some enormously disturbing new consequences of identity fraud that are occurring in addition to these already injurious effects with startling frequency.
The first disconcerting issue that is arising due to identity fraud is occurring in hospitals from illegal individuals using forged social security numbers to receive medical treatment.  This is a problem Hamp referred to as “cross-pollenization,” because it results in the intermixing of the medical histories of the illegal and true identities.  Hamp maintained that a circumstance such as this could potentially be dangerous if one of the individuals was a diabetic and the other was not, or if one had type A blood and the other type B, for example.    “Though hospitals generally have safeguards in place to prevent the effects of cross-pollenization,” Hamp continued, “human error is always a possibility.”  This was recently demonstrated in the billing department of a local hospital when a Utah woman was charged by the hospital for the delivery of a baby she never had; the infant was actually birthed by another woman who received the hospital services using fraudulent Social Security information.
The second issue that has problematically developed involves law enforcement.  Mr. Hamp indicated that in the last year in Salt Lake City there have been 400 warrants out for the wrong person.  Most of them, said Hamp, are the result of traffic arrests or citations in which an illegal immigrant disclosed the fraudulent documentation of someone else.   The implications of these developments are, as stated by Hamp, that an identity thief can now, “hurt your earnings history, your health, or could get you arrested.”
Growth of Identity Fraud
In addition to these alarming new developments, is the distressing fact of how frequently identity frauds of this nature are occurring.  In 2000, Hamp estimated that there were approximately 132,000 Social Security numbers compromised in Utah, 90% of which he affirmed were due to illegal immigrants using them to attain employment.  He also stated that according to his research alongside the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS), in 2005 among children ages twelve and under, there were 3,554 Social Security and DWS numbers compromised, the majority of which he again chalked up to their illegal use by immigrants. Consequently, not only is this problem getting worse, it is hurting the most innocent among us, American children.
Who is to blame for such a horrendous situation?  Some point the blame at employers for hiring the illegal immigrant; others hold the illegal immigrant responsible.  We believe that the fault of this catastrophic condition falls upon the federal government for tacitly allowing this state of affairs to persist until it reached its current breaking point: the point at which we now find ourselves.  Our nation has reached a spot where it is no longer acceptable to deprive employers of legal workers; is inexcusable to rely on a broken immigration system that implicitly sanctions illegal immigration; and is certainly intolerable to shift the burden of continuing in this manner to those whose identities are being stolen as if they were some sort of collateral damage amid our economic growth.  Now is the time for us to stand and demand action at the federal level so that the current, deplorable immigration system can be revolutionized for America’s needs today.