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False Documents of Undocumented Remains Problematic

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As the United States Senate and President George Bush try to come to some understanding of what is needed to properly address the illegal entry of non-resident aliens to the United States, for the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens already residing in the U.S., the issue of existing false documentation has yet to be honestly addressed. But proposed legislation in the Senate leading to a path of legal residency and ultimately citizenship for those illegal aliens presently residing in the U.S. would involve presentation of proof of identity and length of residency.

The problem will be whether or not the illegal or "undocumented" aliens will be willing to admit that their status in the U.S. is illegal, or will continue to maintain that the documentation they hold is valid, even if fraudulent and illegally obtained. In order to do so, there would have to be an amnesty program, but President Bush has insisted that his proposal for legal residency of illegal aliens is not an amnesty program which presents a problem.

Forms of identification, necessary to secure employment, are a valid Social Security card and either a valid Work Visa or Green Card, and in some cases an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) in lieu of a Social Security number. However, employers rarely check as to whether the documents they are presented with are actually legal documents, partly because of their authentic appearance.

The sophistication of computer technology over the past several years, has led to the manufacture of official looking counterfeit immigration documents. Illegal residents no longer need depend on flea markets or corner stores which once only sold less valid-looking identification. Forged document mills have become big business in both the U.S. and Mexico, yielding billions of dollars each year. And for those people crossing the border through smugglers or chauffeured in by other means from Mexico, they are usually provided not only access to the U.S. by said smugglers but given fraudulent documentation and identities as well included in the price.

Presently, the fraudulent document business is what many experts in law enforcement are saying is akin to organized crime, due to its vast network of operations. Most well known is the Castorena Family Organization (CF0). According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the Castorena's have dominated a big part of the printing and distribution business of forged documents since they arrived in the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1980's. And ICE has knowledge that the CFO now has operations in all 50 states.

Julie Myers, Director of ICE, has referred to document forgery in the U.S. as epidemic. And although Myers says that ICE is joining multi-agency task forces to crack down on forged document rings nationwide, it still leaves little resources left to weed out the existing individual holders of illegal documents being used to gain employment, gain access to state and federal entitlement programs as well as driver's licenses and voter registration cards.

As part of the average $2,000.00 smuggling fee given to those referred to as "coyotes" who transport or smuggle Mexicans illegally over the U.S. border, those illegally entering are either given a package of fraudulent documents or are given contact numbers for illicit vendors selling the various documents. They range in price from $100.00 - $500.00, depending upon the number of documents and the quality of their authenticity. But the most desirable documents are acquired from the Castorena network.

The forged document mills were an answer to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which required that potential employees present a Social Security card, driver's license, or voter registration card as proof of legal residency to their employer. But the 1986 law also mandates that there be civil penalties invoked for those employers of illegal aliens, and rarely has it ever been enforced.

Yet, contrary to the headlines and television broadcast videos shown, not all Mexicans coming into the U.S. walk through the hot desert heat and risk their health and safety to enter. The coyote business has also become more sophisticated and some have become one-stop-shop operations. For more money, of course, people are transported in cabs with the coyote dressed as a taxi driver and the passenger well dressed and carrying money. For example, the cab might be full of shopping bags of new clothing from San Diego stores when going through the border crossing to show law enforcement that the illegal alien is a wealthy Mexican merely visiting the U.S. The coyote assures the uneventful passage through the border by advising the passenger on how best to not tip off law enforcement. They then make their way through to Los Angeles whereupon the illegal alien is met by friends or relatives. They are now on their way to their new life.

Also, little spoken of in the mainstream media are Mexicans actually of well-to-do means and good educational or vocational backgrounds who choose to forego a professional career in Mexico. Many white-collar jobs in Mexico pay less than, for example, putting up sheetrock in the U.S. For the Mexican trade school graduate, appliance repair in Mexico could pay $100.00 a week. But in the U.S., a refrigerator repairman, for example, earns approximately $35.00 an hour. And for doctors and nurses from Mexico, many decide on blue-collar work upon arrival in the U.S., as they are without the proper medical certification in order to practice medicine. However, they do not seem to appear to have trouble in accessing forged U.S. documents.

But whether they are rich or poor, the issue of false identity remains an intrinsic problem of immigration and necessitates it being a part of any discussion concerning immigration reform. For it is the predominance of fraudulent documentation which is the gateway to life in the U.S. for illegal aliens, and for those who have already established lives in the U.S., albeit illegally. And while 13 states now issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens the ramifications of owning such a photo ID are extensive.

But in North Carolina, for example, the state does not require any identification other than a utility bill or other proof of address in order to complete its Spanish-language voter registration form. North Carolina presently has no system to know if an illegal alien registers to vote. Upon applying for a driver's license, most states comply with the 1993 Motor Voter Act which allows citizens to register to vote at the same time they apply for a driver's license or state issued ID. All that is required is a Social Security card or ITIN to receive a driver's license. And all anyone need do is to say that they are a citizen in order to register to vote.

Although there are many documented reports of non-citizens voting there is no enforcement of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act which makes it a federal crime for non-citizens to vote in any federal or state election, unless authorized by the state. Advocates for legalizing illegal aliens would like the government and the public to believe that those illegally living in the U.S. have no interest in voting. In fact that may be true. But a voter registration card is an immensely valuable tool as it is a document which may be accepted by employers as validation of identification when combined with a Social Security card for employment.

But non-citizens on the voter registration rolls legally nullifies and skews the process of redrawing Congressional and state electoral districts after each U.S. Census is taken. Voter registrations are supposed to be representative of legal U.S. citizens who legally vote. Lawmakers benefit from the illegal representation of unlawful residents and those who illegally register to vote as they are counted as valid constituents.

Additionally, jury pools for jury duty are compiled from a municipality's voter registration records. If illegal non-citizens are chosen for jury duty, they can have a profound impact on the determination of legal decisions. Verdicts by juries in which non-citizens have served on could very well be overturned should it be found out that a non-citizen participated in the jury process in its rendering a verdict.

These are but a few indications of the wide ranging and deep-rooted consequences of what the false document industry has bred. There sadly are many, many more. But ownership of false documents by illegal aliens now begs another question. In order to receive benefit of the path to citizenship which both the Senate and the Bush administration have proposed, will not illegal aliens then need to admit that they have been using fraudulent documents in order to become employed, receive state and federal benefits, receive an education, drive and register to vote? For if they really want to come out of the shadows as their advocates continue to claim, then illegal aliens will have to abide by the law and reveal their true identities. However, that proposition may ultimately prove too foreign for them to bear.
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Diane M. Grassi is an investigative journalist and reporter providing topical and in-depth articles and analysis on U.S. public policy and governmental affairs, including key federal and state legislation as well as court decisions relative to the (more...)
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