Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When worlds collide

Undocumented immigration is a problem. Identity theft is a problem. These are two problems we definitely do not want to build on one another--and it looks like they already have.

The big immigration news today is that ICE busted six meat packing plants yesterday, arresting the undocumented workers for, are you ready? Identity theft. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that this has not happened sooner, or more likely, that ICE has not caught on to this sooner. The reason? There are huge flaws in the main program employed by the government to help employers authenticate workers' identification document. For years, undocumented workers would show up with fake social security cards and matching IDs. They were expensive, but the reality was, no one was watching too closely. The current immigration system gives a wink and a nod to employers who hire undocumented workers, and all the employer has to do is say the checked the ID, and it looked okay.

The weak government ID requirements and poor coordination with the Social Security Administration have allowed undocumented workers to use fake IDs for decades. Things started to get dicey, however, when when workers file their income taxes, and so many do. They do this because in many cases, they have deductions coming to them. However, the IRS is considerably better at ferreting out forged documents than ICE, so they usually report back to the filer that their social security number is invalid, and they are not eligible for refunds. So, what's the next best thing? Using a legitimate social security number that belongs to someone else! I have to admit, there are horrifying implications here. What if even a fraction of the 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S. decided they'd like to by stolen identification? Does anyone else out there see that this is a business "opportunity" that we do not want to give to identity thieves.

The other significant issue that came from this wide-spread raid is this: the workplace is just as significant, perhaps more so, as the border in addressing undocumented immigration. It's a sad state of affairs, however, when the meat packers are not held responsible for their actions as well. In yesterday's raids, not one employer was arrested or fined, which means that the workers who replace those who were arrested yesterday are very likely to be...

(can you guess?) Undocumented.

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