Thursday, February 10, 2011

Document Forgery Factory in Virginia

I was sent information about two news reports from a number of my friends, including a former colleague who worked with me at the INS. The news reports appeared in the Loudoun Times and the Loudoun Daily Monitor on February 4th and are important on a couple of levels.

First of all the news is significant because it provides some details about an apparently successful investigation that was conducted by local law enforcement investigators in Virginia that has resulted in the identification and the subsequent shutting down of a document mill. Document mills produce various documents that can be used to provide individuals with documentation that would enable them to create false identities for themselves. The issue of the creation of false identities is of extreme importance because the only folks who would want to alter their identities are individuals who have reasons to attempt to conceal their true identities.

What I find interesting is that the news reports make no mention of DHS or ICE being involved in the investigation, other than noting police officers made use of the 287(g) program to identify the fact that the individuals who were arrested pursuant to the investigation are believed to be illegal aliens. Through this important program, the cops were able to lodge detainers against those who were criminally charged. This means that whenever their criminal charges are completely disposed of- perhaps after they serve out their prison sentences, presuming that they are ultimately found guilty of the crimes they are charged with and sentences to serve prison sentences that they will then come into the custody of ICE.

According to the Loudoun Daily Monitor, two of the defendants who were arrested by the police were previously deported from the United States. These individuals can be further prosecuted for unlawful reentry by the federal government.

Ultimately, the lodging of detainers will enable ICE to attempt to seek the removal of all of these individuals once they come into federal custody.

As I noted at the beginning of this commentary, are a number of possible reasons why someone might want to conceal his (her) true identity but generally it must be presumed that anyone who would attempt to obscure his true identity is someone who is intending to engage in illegal activities.

The use of false identities is a tactic employed by criminals, by terrorists and by illegal aliens who may simply be seeking unlawful employment or may be attempting to conceal that they have committed other crimes.

When law enforcement officials arrest a suspect in a crime, one of the first tasks to be undertaken is to photograph and fingerprint the person who has been arrested. Most criminals who have been arrested previously will attempt to prevent law enforcement authorities from easily knowing about their prior arrests and possibly convictions. The use of a false identity is used to obscure the career criminal's background. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to arrest and individual and find numerous false names that the person has used once the fingerprint records are found. I have actually arrested individuals who had used so many false names that the printout had pages of aliases!

Illegal aliens also attempt to utilize false identities to conceal the fact that they are illegally present in the United States or, perhaps, had been previously deported from the United States, making their mere presence in our country subsequent to that deportation a felony. (An alien who has been deported from the United States and has no criminal history is committing a felony that has a maximum punishment of up to two years in prison while an alien who has been previously deported and was removed from the United States because of criminal convictions faces a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.)

Illegal aliens also use false identity documents in order to procure illegal employment. This is one of the reasons that I am concerned about the administration's stated policy of seeking to punish employers who intentionally hire illegal aliens but through the "audit only" approach to worksite enforcement- conducting what have come to be referred to as "silent raids" are not focusing adequate attention on the way that likely millions of illegal aliens purchase counterfeit identity documents to enable them to pass themselves off as lawful immigrants or even United States citizens, who are entitled to work in the United States.

You may be interested to know that last year I agreed to assist a law firm that was retained by a farm in Hawaii because two of their managers were arrested and criminally charged with intentionally hiring illegal aliens. Generally I would not assist a defense attorney. I certainly have the right to assist any law firm I want to, but I would never assist in the defense of a person who, in my judgement, was guilty of wrongdoing- this is a matter of personal principle. I do not compromise on core issues and this is certainly one of them.

In the Hawaii case, however, all of the employees that were hired by the managers, who were subsequently arrested, showed the managers counterfeit Alien Registration Cards (Green Cards). In my judgement the cards were not flawless but were of sufficiently good quality that it would be easy to understand how a farm manager would not detect the fact that these documents were bogus. If you doubt this, consider the fact that the illegal aliens in this case, citizens of Mexico, were hired in California and flown by commercial airlines to Hawaii. Their counterfeit documents were accepted by the TSA employees at the airport who permitted them to board their flights to Hawaii. Interestingly the title of the employees of the TSA who made this decision is "Document Checker!"

In this particular case, the workers were all paid "on the books." There was absolutely no evidence of any sort of exploitation and there were no other factors usually associated with the intentional employment of illegal aliens. The entire case was based on the use of fraud documents proffered by the employees and by statements made by a few of the illegal alien employees who agreed to become cooperators. There were no audio or video tapes to substantiate any of the claims made by the few cooperators who, by cooperating with the government, were permitted to remain in the United States for over one year and work while the case was pending.

The two farm managers were ultimately acquitted of all counts of their indictments.

You should also know that according to the current law, an employer who asks to see additional identity documents of an employee whose identity documents may appear questionable could be charged with violating the civil rights of that employee! This places even honest employers in a bind- they can be charged with hiring illegal aliens or, if they ask too many questions about identity documents, may be charged with violating civil rights!

The employees get to decide on what documents to show their employer provided that the documents are listed on the I-9. The employer has no authority to ask to say any additional documents and, in fact, could be violating the law if he does ask for any additional documentation.


A derisive Canadian comment on U.S. border control

A "rancid soup of incompetence, bickering, turf-protection and willful ignorance of the big picture"

It’s good that Joe Lieberman is retiring. There seems to be something wrong with his brain. As chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, he was one of six senators who asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was faring in its efforts to coordinate and streamline law enforcement efforts along the Canadian border. In a 60-page report, the GAO replied, in effect: “Golly. Not very well.” As was widely reported this week, tourist visas for Canadian citizens are among the remedial measures Mr. Lieberman is eager to consider.

It’s difficult to overstate the extent to which the GAO report does not suggest this is a good idea — or a bad idea, for that matter. It hardly concerns itself with Canadians, and the threats we might represent to the U.S. homeland. It is more concerned about the various agencies charged with securing the border — agencies that don’t always seem to know what their jobs are, or what their partner agencies’ jobs are, or treat their partner agencies as partners in the first place.

A few examples: Border Patrol thinks it’s allowed to conduct interviews with people it apprehends without first calling in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); ICE disagrees. Border Patrol doesn’t think ICE should actually be patrolling the border; ICE considers that “an inherent part of [its] investigative role.” When Border Patrol officers seize contraband, they feel entitled to transport the dodgy goods to headquarters before calling ICE; ICE thinks it should be called immediately upon discovery.

Like a bickering old couple, the two agencies sometimes refuse to talk to each other. “ICE officials operating within the Detroit, Spokane [in Washington] and Swanton [in Vermont] districts said they are reluctant to share intelligence information with Border Patrol because they are concerned Border Patrol may adversely affect an ICE investigation.”

But aren’t they all playing for the same team? Well, frankly, no: “Border Patrol officials in three sectors and ICE officials operating within two sectors stated that competition for performance statistics was another barrier to overcoming coordination challenges as these statistics are the basis for DHS resource allocation decisions.”

Similar problems plague Border Patrol’s relationship with the Forest Service, which is responsible for patrolling significant stretches of the border — or that’s what the Forest Service thinks, anyway. Border Patrol thinks the rangers are stepping on its toes. The report found that in one sector in Washington, “Border Patrol does not share information in a timely manner due to concerns that Forest Service cannot be trusted.” And, naturally, vice versa.

Nor does ICE get along splendidly with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). ICE officials complain that because the DEA has separate inter-operational agreements with Border Patrol and with the RCMP, it’s kept out of the loop on international investigations and the DEA often gets “first right of refusal in referrals of drug seizures” — which naturally hurts ICE’s feelings.

On the bright side, the GAO says this state of affairs represents a not insignificant improvement in inter-agency cooperation. Actually, hang on, that’s not the bright side at all. It would be far more reassuring to think this was rock bottom. Anyone who’s read the 9/11 Commission Report will recognize this rancid soup of incompetence, bickering, turf-protection and willful ignorance of the big picture. It’s frightening. Or it would be frightening, except it’s the Canadian border.

Politicians obviously feel obliged to freak out about its lack of defences every now and again, but they clearly realize that it’s largely undefended because there’s no significant risk on either side of it to the other. (Some in the media have dismissed the GAO report as scaremongering, but the only time I rolled my eyes was when it said “the risk of terrorist activity” is “high” along the border. High compared to what? Alien abduction?)

If any significant number of Americans thought otherwise, then more than 32 miles of border would already have “an acceptable level of control” (as defined by Border Patrol), and more than 1,007 miles of it would have achieved what it calls “full situational awareness.”

Mr. Lieberman thinks that because the border is easy for criminals to cross, law-abiding Canadians should have to be issued pieces of paper to go shopping in Buffalo or skiing in Vermont. That’s just weird. But it’s no weirder than various Canadian politicians’ desperate efforts to allow us to use “enhanced” driver’s licences to enter the United States, as if spending the same amount of money on a passport represented some kind of existential threat to our great bilateral friendship.

It’s a bit scary to think such people are in charge of trying to streamline what used to be — and what could still be, if we wanted — a mere formality of a border. Much scarier, however, is the idea that the border-protection gong show laid bare in the GAO report also goes on among the people in charge of keeping the real baddies out of the United States, and by extension Canada. This would be a far more useful cause for Mr. Lieberman to take up as his political clock winds down.


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