ICE Raids Highlight "Basic Pilot" Shortcomings
Federal agents conducted a massive round up of illegal workers at Swift and Co. meat packing plants in six states Tuesday, causing substantial anger and consternation among illegal immigrants, their families and their advocacy groups. Among victims of identity theft, not so much:
One victim was a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Another was a woman whom the Internal Revenue Service accused of not paying taxes on $120,000 in earnings that were news to her.
Court documents released Tuesday showed how some victims had their identities stolen by workers who used them to get jobs at Swift & Co., a meatpacking plant in Greeley. Still other victims had no clue how Swift employees used their identities to find jobs, open credit accounts and even collect unemployment benefits...
It appears all the suspects rounded up in Greeley on Tuesday were Latino and were using identification belonging to legal U.S. residents with Latino surnames. Over the course of their nine-month investigation, authorities compared legitimate driver's license photos of victims to photos of the suspects and determined they weren't looking at the same person.
The niece of one identity-theft victim was overjoyed when told that a man suspected of stealing her uncle's ID had been arrested.
"Thank God," said Arlene Juarez of Bakersfield, Calif.
Arlene is the niece of Aaron Rey Juarez, who told authorities he had lost his wallet. Because of the ID theft, authorities have targeted Juarez for not paying child support - for children who aren't even his, Arlene Juarez said.
"He needs a whole new Social Security number," she said. "Every time they do a credit check, it's fraud this or fraud that."
Needless to say, the right-wing extremist media outlets are all over the story:
A day after federal agents netted 1,300 meat plant workers in the largest immigration sweep in U.S. history, federal officials pledged on Wednesday to continue a crackdown on illegal workers and identity theft...
Tuesday's sweep of meat plants in six states, which temporarily shut the Swift and Co. plants, was the culmination of "Operation Wagon Train," a 10-month investigation into alleged illegal aliens using fake documents, and in some cases documents belonging to real people, to get jobs.
Anti-illegal immigration activists should note the raids highlight a very real problem with the federal "Basic Pilot" program
"We believe that the genuine identities of possibly hundreds of US citizens are being stolen or hijacked by criminal organizations and sold to illegal aliens in order to gain unlawful employment in this country," said Julie Myers, ICE assistant secretary. She called it "a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration..."
All of the arrests at the Swift plants Tuesday targeted illegal immigrants who held actual - not fake - Social Security numbers. Many businesses that make use of immigrant labor participate in a national test program for employers called Basic Pilot, an online system to verify employees' Social Security numbers.
"Basic Pilot" is held out by some as a critical step toward increased enforcement of employment regulations at the state and local levels. It is also a de facto part of the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GA SB521), currently recognized as the strongest state legislation in the U.S. related to enforcement of legal employment. The Georgia act does not go into effect until July and one can surmise those charged with implementing it will be calling for a more secure federal program to be put into place.
As T.J. Bonner, president of the border patrol agents' association, said in May, the ultimate solution will likely involve a new version of the social security card with some type of biometric verification built in.
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