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Illegal Immigrants Strain HospitalsNew York Times – by Dana Canedy – August 26, 2002
(8/25/02) - STUART, Fla. — In the two and a half years since Luis Jiménez arrived at the Martin Memorial Medical Center emergency room with severe brain damage from a head-on car collision, the hospital here has become his home.
In that time, Mr. Jiménez, 30, a former gardener, has emerged from a coma, had two birthdays and accumulated medical bills of almost $1 million. By all accounts, he is well enough to be discharged, but the hospital and advocates for the patient are in a conflict over his mounting medical bills and future care that makes his release unlikely without a court order.
A penniless illegal immigrant from Guatemala, Mr. Jiménez has no health insurance, and his injuries have left him with limited mobility and the mental capacity of a 3-year-old. Martin Memorial wants to send him back to his homeland for any remaining medical care. But Mr. Jiménez's advocates insist that he must remain at the hospital until it can find a suitable place in the United States or Guatemala that is willing to care for him.
The impasse is at the center of a national debate over who is ultimately responsible for illegal immigrants who require extensive medical care but have no means to pay for it. The issue has become an increasing concern for health care providers, particularly in Florida and border states with growing numbers of illegal immigrants.
Federal law requires hospitals to provide emergency care to critically ill or injured patients regardless of their immigration status. But because many illegal immigrants work in low-wage jobs that offer no benefits, and cannot qualify for Medicaid, they use emergency rooms as their primary source of routine and critical health care. As the number of such patients increases sharply in states like Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, so too does the financial burden on health care centers that treat them, hospital administrators say.
"We have people coming to our country in good faith to work, but we have no system in place as a nation as to what to do when these people get sick," said Pat Austin, a spokeswoman for Martin Memorial. "Each hospital is left to kind of figure out what to do for itself."
The hospitals insist that they are not turning away critically ill or injured people, but they are becoming more aggressive in seeking ways to release them. Some hospitals are going to court seeking permission to discharge patients like Mr. Jiménez. Federal lawmakers are seeking financial aid to reimburse hospitals for treating indigent illegal immigrants, and some hospitals have taken unusual steps, including putting nurses on planes to fly the patients back to their own countries.
Such measures, though, have done little to stem the rising costs, the health care providers say.
"We have tried to work on this for years, but the problem has gotten more acute," said Sheri Jorden, senior policy director for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. "Hospitals have been writing these bills off with great difficulty."
According to a study released last month by the National Association of Counties, 86 percent of 150 counties nationwide reported an increase in uncompensated health care expenses in the last five years. Of those reporting an increase, 67 percent cited a growing number of immigrants as a factor in the rising costs for county hospitals and rescue services.
"Most of the counties receive money from the state and federal government," said Jacqueline Byers, director of research for the association, "but it is not nearly enough to meet the growing need."
According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States increased to as many as eight million in 2000, the last year for which figures are available, from five million in 1996. By some estimates, hospitals are collectively writing off as much as $2 billion a year in unpaid medical bills to treat the illegal immigrants, who, unlike American citizens and permanent residents, are ineligible for Medicaid.
In one case at Martin Memorial that was resolved in February, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica arrived at the emergency room with a sore on his leg and stayed in the hospital for 17 months.
"He said he had a green card but couldn't find it," Ms. Austin said. "The doctors found a serious vascular disease and he had to have both legs amputated."
"After his surgeries, when he was well enough, we had a great deal of difficulty figuring out what to do next," Ms. Austin added. "We eventually found some relatives and a physician in Jamaica who was willing to accept him, and one of our nurses flew with him to Jamaica. By the time all that happened, it had cost us probably over half a million dollars."
In the case of Mr. Jiménez, Martin Memorial says it has already incurred nearly $900,000 in expenses for which it has no hope of being paid.
"We feel there needs to be a national program of some sort that would cover these individuals with insurance," Ms. Austin said, "or in the case of catastrophic events, allow the hospital a chance of repayment."
Martin Memorial has been unable to release Mr. Jiménez because the patient's guardian and the hospital cannot agree on a discharge plan. The hospital has petitioned a judge for permission to send Mr. Jiménez back to Guatemala. No state medical center will accept him, since his immigration status makes him ineligible for Medicaid.
Mr. Jiménez's lawyer contends that the hospital has not provided enough information about where the man will be placed and who will treat him. Mr. Jiménez's family in Guatemala does not have the money to pay for his care.
"The hospital is saying he's occupying a bed and we need to get him out," said Michael Banks, a lawyer who has donated his services to Montejo Gaspar, Mr. Jiménez's cousin by marriage and his court-appointed guardian. "We have made it unequivocally clear that we have no problems sending Mr. Jiménez to Guatemala, but we feel a plan is not in place."
In Arizona, where hospitals have grappled with similar problems, the University Medical Center in Tucson wrote off more than $3 million in costs between July 2000 and June 2001 that it incurred from treating uninsured immigrants, said John Duval, chief operating officer for the center. "I don't know that there's a societal solution to the problem," Mr. Duval said, "but we are doing an enormous amount of heavy lifting with no compensation."
Another Arizona hospital, Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas, filed for bankruptcy and nearly closed in 1998 because of the rising costs of treating illegal immigrants. The problem has become so bad in Arizona that a state program that provided free dialysis and chemotherapy for legal and illegal immigrants will run out of money in a couple of months.
The issue has prompted hospitals in several states to seek assistance from sympathetic lawmakers. Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, introduced a bill in January 2001, co-sponsored with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, that would provide $200 million a year for four years to reimburse health care providers in border regions.
Representative Jim Kolbe, Republican of Arizona, introduced a similar measure in June 2001 that would establish a $50 million reimbursement program for hospitals and ambulance services in his state. The Border Hospital Survival and Illegal Immigrant Care Act would guarantee that medical providers are compensated for treating illegal immigrants. Both bills are stalled in committees.
"It is not a top priority for many," Mr. Kolbe said. "It does happen everywhere, but where you see it every day is here along the border."
81 Arrested for Fake ID UseAssociated Press – August 24, 2002
LOS ANGELES -- Eighty-one people working at Southern California airports who allegedly used false identities to obtain jobs with top level security badges were arrested as part of a national crackdown to improve the protection of airports, authorities said Friday.
The U.S. attorney's office says more arrests are expected Friday. Twenty-three people are being sought in addition to the 81 arrested.
The raids are part of an ongoing national sweep known as "Operation Tarmac," which began after Sept. 11. The sweep has netted hundreds of employees with access to high-security areas at U.S. airports.
Authorities say Thursday's raids uncovered immigration violations and document fraud. No terrorist connections were found.
The workers were employed by private companies as janitors, baggage handlers and maintenance workers at Los Angeles International and three other area airports.
The arrests have drawn criticism from a Hispanic civil rights organization. But a government spokesman said the targets are people who use phony identification to get jobs at airports, whoever they are.
Deadly Tactic By SmugglersNew York Times – by Barbara Whitaker – August 16, 2002
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 14 — They are typically referred to as the wrong-way drivers. But Raul Villarreal of the Border Patrol has another name for the drug and illegal-immigrant smugglers who barrel into oncoming lanes of traffic to evade capture or, under cover of night, even detection. They are, he says, suicidal.
"They will employ any means," said Agent Villarreal, a spokesman in the Border Patrol's San Diego office. "All they want is to get paid."
With the tactic in growing use at or near the San Diego border crossing, local, state and federal officials have announced a crackdown on the wrong-way drivers, promising stepped-up surveillance at the border and better barriers to keep drivers in their proper lanes.
So far, even multiple fatalities have not stopped wrong-way smuggling.
On the night of June 24, a van with its lights off and packed with illegal immigrants sped west in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 8 to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint that sat only in the westbound lanes. The van sideswiped two cars, collided with a sport utility vehicle and then hit another van. The driver of the S.U.V. was killed, as were the driver of the wrong-way van and 4 of the 26 other people it carried. One of the 26, Alfred Alvarez Coronado, was arrested and charged with smuggling illegal immigrants.
The wrong-way tactic is being attributed primarily to a ring of drug and immigrant smugglers that the authorities learned of only after that crash. The Border Patrol reports at least 16 instances of wrong-way smuggling in the last year, 5 in the last month.
Surveillance cameras have captured such smugglers plowing north through southbound gates at the border, their vehicles occasionally pushing others out of the way and running right over spike strips before they can be intercepted. They then continue north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, which often carries heavy traffic.
Once the drivers cross the border, stopping them becomes tricky.
"We have a pursuit policy which impedes us from pursuing vehicles traveling against traffic," Agent Villarreal said. "It's too risky. We place more value on human life."
Border Patrol agents say the wrong-way smugglers, so far unique to the San Diego area, are increasingly sophisticated. The smugglers are filling their tires with a silicone gel, the agents say, so they can negotiate the tire-shredding spike strips and are using reinforced bumpers that can be used to ram oncoming cars. They tend to travel when traffic is light, usually during the week from midnight to 3 a.m.
Though declining to detail many of the steps being taken to thwart the wrong-way drivers, Border Patrol officials say they will be stationing agents on the southbound side of the port of entry to intercept them and using helicopters to help track vehicles as they approach the border.
The officials say that while it is hard to determine all the points from which the smugglers are setting out for their border crossing, a large taxi stand a few hundred yards south of the border is frequently used.
Mexican officials have pledged to take several steps, among them installing a second set of spike strips and redesigning the taxi area to eliminate access to the southbound lanes.
U.S. Park Ranger Killed Along BorderTucson Citizen – by Adam Borowitz – August 15, 2002
(8/10/02) - A park ranger was shot and killed Friday at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as he pursued a Mexican national on the run from Mexico.
The Mexican national also was shot and killed, but it was unclear who shot him. The identity of the park ranger was withheld, pending notification of relatives.
Officials said the pursuit began east of Lukeville, a port of entry about 40 miles south of Ajo.
Mexican officials contacted U.S. Customs on Friday to report that two men had fled over the border into the park, said David Hutson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Organ Pipe. Officials did not know why the men fled Mexico.
The ranger, a law-enforcement officer at the park, and three U.S. Border Patrol agents responded as a Border Patrol helicopter searched for the men, Hutson said.
The helicopter spotted their vehicle about a half-mile from the border, officials said, and agents arrested one of the men without incident.
Agents in the helicopter spotted the second man a short time later and directed the park ranger to him, Hutson said. The man opened fire on the ranger when he approached, striking him below his body armor at least once. He died en route to a hospital, Hutson said.
The ranger was one of fewer than a dozen workers at Organ Pipe. The tight-knit crew mourned the loss of one of their own late Friday.
"With a small overall staff, we're all pretty close here, so you can imagine what it's like," Hutson said.
Organ Pipe was labeled the most dangerous in the national park system in a 2001 survey by the Fraternal Order of Police chapter for park rangers.
‘Officer Down’by John Malone – August 15, 2002
(8/10/02) - Yesterday, a federal officer lost his life on the border in AZ. I was working. I heard the radio caller announcing a "lookout" for a vehicle loaded with weapons that was going to be driven across the border. A little while later, while I was processing some aliens for "Voluntary Removal", I heard the Ajo Border Patrol Agent talk to the National Park Service Ranger about working some pedestrian activated sensor traffic several miles north of the International Border. The Ajo agent is fairly new. He has been here less than 2 years. The Park Ranger became permanent at Organ Pipe National Monument about 2 years ago. Before that, he was "seasonal".
Sometime after that, I heard that one of the helicopter pilots from our neighboring sector in Yuma (who provide Ajo agents with more air assistance than our own sector), involved in some activity near Lukeville. I began to realize that the Border Patrol Agent, the Park Ranger, and the pilot were all working the vehicle traffic near Lukeville and not the pedestrian traffic from the sensor activation's. It was a little hard to follow, but I didn't have a good feeling about how it was going to develop.
As I have told many of you before, the Ajo station is actually in Why, some 30 miles north of the border. Lukeville is the Port of Entry (POE) at the terminus of (AZ) State Route 85 on the border with Mexico. In this area, there is a road that parallels the border "fence" both east and west of the POE. It is one of the very few dirt "roads" in the area. The objective of the alien and dope smugglers is to get to the highway. Once there, the next step is to blend in with traffic and avoid the "temporary" checkpoint set up 5 or so miles south of the station in Why. As some of you have seen, the area is sparsely vegetated and consists of rocky hills and small mountains. These small mountains and the valleys and washes cause radio signal strength to be weak or non-existent in some areas.
Sorry for the digression. As best I could tell, the situation was getting distorted. The pilot was trying to direct the agents to the vehicle and occupants (at some point it must have stopped). He identified at least 2 bad guys and that at least one of them had a "long arm" (rifle). There were Mexican officials south of the illegal vehicle. I know this because the pilot used them as a reference point to guide the agents. The pilot's radio transmissions were very distorted with static and helicopter whine so it was difficult to understand what he as saying some times. I don't remember if I heard any of the agents on the ground use the radio. I do remember that our sector dispatch was calling out sensor activation's (usually normal radio traffic) and there was some other non-related radio traffic on the same frequency. At one point, an agent not involved in the incident asked for all radio traffic to cease except for those involved in the incident. This started a dialogue between that agent and the dispatch that lasted a minute or two.
At some point (around 12:30 PM), I loaded my illegal aliens for their return trip south and was starting to leave the station when I heard the pilot say, "officer down". I made a conscious decision to continue what I started in the vehicle I was in. I figured it would take too long to unload my aliens, lock them in a cell, try and find another "law enforcement" vehicle, and start south. I drove way faster than I should have in the vehicle (an unmarked '97 Ford Van with almost 200,000 miles on it) and with my passengers. I arrived at the POE about 20 minutes later and discharged my passengers and tried to assist. On the way down, I was passed by at least 5 other BP units running code (lights and siren). About 5 or 6 miles north of the POE, I passed the Border Patrol Agent driving the shot Park Ranger north to rendezvous with an ambulance. By then, 5 or 6 law enforcement vehicles were coming off of the border road.
I turned around to look for some way to help. When I arrived at the back of the POE, I saw the shot Park Ranger's fellow Ranger, and several other officers I didn't know, performing lifesaving measures on the wounded bad guy. I saw that I was not needed there and drove north to assist with traffic control near the air evacuation site. The first person I saw when I arrived where the ambulance was stopped (12 miles north) was the Ajo Border Patrol Agent who was with the Park Ranger the whole time. He was positioned with a Customs Special Agent where he could direct traffic on the 2 lane road. The look on his face was pure emotional anguish. I parked my van and set out to do what I could.
I could see in the ambulance that at least 2 paramedics (EMT's?) were working on the Ranger. There was also someone else inside. There were at least 2 more BP Agents a few yards north of the ambulance. I talked to the BP agent that was with the Park Ranger. He was distraught. He wanted reassurance that he had done all that he could. I listened to him and reassured him that he did. After spending some time with him, I walked towards the ambulance. I shouted through the open ambulance doors at the Park Ranger and told him to "hang on". I didn't want to be a strap hanger; I just wanted to offer some encouragement. I went back to the BP Agent and tried to help.
I don't remember what time I arrived at the scene of the ambulance. I know that we radioed to have both north and southbound traffic stopped. I know that one agent called our dispatch on several occasions to ask about the ETA of the air evac. More than once, he asked to confirm that there was more than one helicopter enroute and that they were going to 2 different locations. At least one of the calls was inquiring about the ETA after the previous ETA had passed. At some point I noticed that one of the people in the ambulance was another Park Ranger that I knew; his name is Bo. Near the end, he exited the ambulance and walked away from it and in my general direction. I walked to him, hugged him and tried to say something encouraging. He commented that he thought it was too late. A little while later, the helicopter finally landed. It flew up from the south, the direction of the POE.
Bo and I walked over to the ambulance so that we would be ready to help load up the shot Ranger. We were there when it was decided that the helicopter wasn't going to take him. We were there when the doctor on the other end of the ambulance frequency called the time of death (2:40 PM). I watched as Lonnie (the EMS director and OIC at the scene) and Bo cried. It seemed like it was just the three of us. They both talked to and stroked the dead Ranger. I put my hand on Bo's back and held it there until he was through with his initial moment of grief. I watched them as they unhooked all of the IV's and monitors and removed the pressure suit(?)pants. I saw them cover him with a blanket. Yesterday, I saw my first dead person and it was someone I knew and someone that I worked with. I didn't stay there much longer. I took the BP Agent who was with the shot Ranger back down to the POE.
When we arrived, we saw that the bad guy was dead. The dead Ranger's buddy, who was trying to save the bad guys life, was sitting with quite a few law enforcement officers. As I looked around, I saw Customs and Immigration Inspectors (who work at the POE), Customs Special Agents, Border Patrol Agents, County Deputies, an Air Force K-9 handler temporarily detailed to the POE, and a couple of AZ DOT officers who also work at the POE. It didn't surprise me. While there may be some chest thumping and service rivalry, when one law enforcement officer needs help out here, there is no hesitation. We know that sometimes someone from another agency may be our only backup because our agency back up may be 30 miles away.
I want to tell you a little about the dead Ranger and how I knew him. I haven't used his name because I don't know that his parents know yet. I had the pleasure of meeting them and would hate to know that they found out by accidentally receiving this email instead of the proper way. It will be difficult enough even then.
I first met the Ranger a few years ago when he first showed up at Organ Pipe as a temporary seasonal Ranger. What I saw then, and what I remember most about him, was his smile. He always had one. I don't think that I ever saw him frown or talk negatively. The Ranger was young and eager like most new officers. However, he had been a seasonal temp for several years before that in other parks. He wanted to learn the job, he wanted to learn the area, and he wanted to catch dope smugglers.
Christmas came about 3 months after he got here. I remember that 2 other BP Agents and I were working swing shift (2PM - 12 AM) Christmas Eve or Christmas Day near the POE. Sometime during the shift, he came down and talked to us for awhile. The Ranger station and their housing area that he lived in is about 5 miles north of the POE. He told us that his family (Mom, Dad, and sister) was visiting him and he invited us up for Christmas dinner. Sometime during the night, we went up and met his family and ate dinner. We spent an hour or so visiting. He embodied the true spirit of Christmas. While we weren't strangers we weren't family either. I felt like family that night. His family welcomed us and shared their food. I hope I never forget that.
Over the last year or so, I didn't see him very much. My assignments had me working on other things and in other areas so I wasn't working often in Park. I would occasionally see him on or off duty and we would play catch up. He even joked about the fact that he had me over for Christmas dinner and then I hadn't been back. About 2 months ago, I ran into him one day and we spent a little time exchanging things that were going on in our lives. That was the last time I saw him until today.
I wrote this email for several reasons. I know it is long. I could probably spend an hour or so editing it; but I won't. I wrote from my perspective; not to talk about me or my actions but to use what I saw to describe the people and events. I wrote it to tell you what happened as I know it. I wrote it to tell you how one officer's death affected me. I wrote it to help me grieve. And, I wrote it to point out a few things that are wrong with this job and the approach that our management and government officials are taking with the border issues. A National Park Service Ranger died assisting a Border Patrol Agent with his job. We are undermanned, our technology (communications, vehicles, weapons, uniforms, etc.) is out dated and ineffective, our national border policies are too political, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is out of touch with reality, the court dockets are so full that we can't prosecute those that need to be, and the smugglers are getting more aggressive. I have yet to see the results of the other shooting incident investigations. Our management never officially (through email) notified us of these events. How are we, the agents, supposed to learn from these situations? It's almost as if they didn't occur.
In the 5 years that I have been at this station, I don't recall a single incident where a Border Patrol Agent was shot at until a couple of months ago. That incident involved the Mexican military shooting at the vehicle of a Border patrol Agent who was doing his job on our side of the border. Since then, BP Agents were shot at twice in one week in 2 different incidents. Up until yesterday, those shootings took place on the Tohono O'dham Indian reservation, in some of our most remote area. Yesterday was the first incident I recall occurring near Lukeville. I may have forgotten one or two incidents because I am getting "sometimer's disease". The point I am making is that the trend of shooting incidents in our area has increased dramatically.
I did not write this letter to be a chain mail. However, I hope that you will pass it on as you see fit. There are roughly 9,000 Border Patrol Agents trying to protect our borders from the illegal entry of aliens, terrorists, and drugs. We have a very small voice in Congress and most people have no clue what we do, or under what conditions.
Take a moment to pray or offer your thoughts to the fallen Ranger. While you're at it, we would appreciate it if you said one for the rest of us.
INS Frees Illegal ImmigrantsAssociated Press - July 21, 2002
TULSA -- Sheriff's deputies detained then released 18 suspected illegal immigrants Wednesday at the request of federal immigration authorities, the department said.
A deputy stopped a van about 3:30 a.m. along Interstate 244 near downtown Tulsa for a missing taillight and found the immigrants from Mexico inside, Capt. Bill Bass said.
Two of the immigrants, including one who had a Texas driver's license but said he was an illegal alien, were driving the other 16 Mexican nationals from Houston to New York or Chicago, Bass said.
"They had no documentation whatsoever," Bass said. "They all admitted they didn't have green cards."
Bass said deputies contacted the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who told them to detain all 18. After two hours, the INS asked the department to let them all go, Bass said.
"They said they didn't want them and asked us to release them," Bass said, adding that he was dissatisfied with the INS explanation.
The INS regional office in Dallas did not immediately return a phone call.
Bass said deputies "have no clue" where the immigrants, all males including three juveniles, went after their release. The 16 allegedly being transported told deputies they had been in the country about 24 hours, he said.
Bass said one of the immigrants had a Maryland driver's license, but it had been suspended long ago and was held together with tape.
The department will present its findings to the U.S. Attorney's office in hopes of initiating an investigation, he said.
Foreigners Obtain SS ID With Fake PapersNew York Times – by Robert Pear – May 21, 2002
WASHINGTON, May 19 — Tens of thousands of foreigners are illegally obtaining Social Security numbers by using fake documents, a typical first step to identity theft and other crimes, but federal officials still have not found a way to search immigration records to prevent the practice, federal investigators say.
In a new report, the inspector general of the Social Security Administration, James G. Huse Jr., said that 1 in 12 foreigners receiving new Social Security numbers had done so using fake documents. Preliminary results from an investigation still under way show that 100,000 Social Security numbers were wrongly issued to noncitizens in 2000, Mr. Huse said.
The continuing problem is causing great concern among law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, because Social Security cards can be used to obtain credit cards and the security badges needed for jobs at airports or other vulnerable locations. Since Sept. 11, federal authorities have been conducting nationwide sweeps to arrest people on charges of using false Social Security numbers.
Some of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 had falsely obtained Social Security numbers, which allowed them to open bank accounts and get credit cards in this country.
Prosecutors said that Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot initially suspected of training several hijackers, had used the Social Security number of a Jersey City woman who died in 1991.
For more than three years, Mr. Huse has recommended that the Social Security agency check the records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service before issuing Social Security numbers to noncitizens.
Before Sept. 11, the Social Security agency disagreed with this recommendation and did nothing to carry it out, fearing it would lead to unacceptable delays in issuing Social Security numbers to legitimate applicants.
The Social Security agency has since embraced the recommendation but has had little success in getting the necessary help from the immigration agency, Mr. Huse said in an interview. The immigration agency issues many of the documents that immigrants use to show they are eligible for Social Security cards.
The Social Security agency needs immediate help from the immigration agency because, Mr. Huse said, "Social Security service representatives are not trained in studying the authenticity of foreign identity documents."
Mr. Huse said the two agencies were still working out an arrangement to give Social Security officials access to electronic immigration files on noncitizens. Social Security is also waiting for the immigration agency to incorporate data on certain immigrants authorized to work in the United States.
Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the immigration agency, said: "We are trying to work more closely with the Social Security Administration to reduce the use of fraudulent documents. It's one of our top priorities."
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said Social Security number fraud was a domestic security issue.
"Audits by the inspector general show that the Social Security Administration has been much too loose with its control of Social Security numbers," Mr. Grassley said. "That's extremely dangerous when criminals and terrorists are able to use Social Security numbers to infiltrate American society."
Foreigners have obtained Social Security numbers by using counterfeit versions of visas, green cards and arrival-and-departure forms, among other documents. In some cases, the government has sent Social Security cards to nonexistent children and to dozens of noncitizens listed at the same address.
Mr. Huse said the events of Sept. 11 showed that "identity theft was a prime modus operandi of terrorists." Once a person obtains a Social Security number, through proper or improper means, he said, the government has little control over its use.
"The tragedies of Sept. 11 demonstrate that the misuse of Social Security numbers and identity theft are `breeder' offenses with the ability to facilitate crimes beyond our imagination," Mr. Huse said in his report.
"For at least several more months," he added, "the Social Security Administration will continue to issue Social Security numbers to noncitizens without obtaining independent verification of documents."
In the last year, the Social Security agency issued 5.8 million numbers, including 1.5 million to noncitizens.
The report comes during a nationwide crackdown that has already led to the arrest of hundreds of airport workers on charges that they used fraudulent Social Security numbers to obtain jobs providing access to airplanes, ramps, gates and other restricted areas.
Since September, according to the inspector general of the Transportation Department, 367 workers have been arrested at 16 airports, and 371 have been indicted. Of those, 140 have pleaded guilty or negotiated plea agreements. In addition, 98 people have been deported, and 28 are waiting for deportation hearings.
The indictments name 130 airport workers in the Washington area; 66 in Charlotte, N.C.; 69 in Salt Lake City; 32 in Phoenix; 29 in Las Vegas; and 18 in Boston.
After using counterfeit immigration papers to obtain Social Security numbers, many foreigners use the numbers to get airport security badges, Mr. Huse said.
Separately, federal officials are investigating hundreds of people believed to have used false Social Security numbers to obtain credit cards and steal money.
In some cases, people detained as terrorism suspects were held on Social Security fraud charges, which are easier to prove.
"These actions ensure that the suspected terrorists remain in the judicial process while the terrorist investigation is continuing," said Mr. Huse, who worked at the Secret Service for 25 years before joining the Social Security agency in 1996.
Before Sept. 11, it was unusual for the government to imprison anyone on a charge of having obtained a false Social Security number.
To illustrate the misuse of Social Security numbers, Mr. Huse cited the case of Malek M. Seif, a pilot arrested in Phoenix in October. Federal officials said Mr. Seif might have known a Sept. 11 hijacker, but he was not accused of terrorism. In February, he pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud, acknowledging that he had made false statements when he applied for a card.
Federal officials said Mr. Seif had obtained two Social Security numbers under different names, obtained driver's licenses in both names and used both identities on a variety of loan and credit card applications.
INS: The Most Incompetent BureaucracyEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – May 11, 2002
Just in case anyone has any doubts that the Immigration and Naturalization Service is in the business of “rubber stamping” alien visa approvals, read on. They did it again: Approved the visa of another dead Kamikaze terrorist!
Arizona flight school officials and the Associated Press reported that the INS approved a student visa for Hani Hanjour. He will not be needing it, since it is believed that he was at the controls of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11/01.
The INS did the same thing earlier. They approved student visas for two dead, suicide hijackers who trained at CRM Airline Training Center in Florida.
The president of CRM referred to the INS as "the most incompetent bureaucracy."
Senate Passes Border Tech BillFederal Computer Week – by Judi Hasson – April 20, 2002
(4/19/02) - The Senate passed major legislation April 18 in the war against terrorism that would tighten security at U.S. borders by using biometrics and other high-tech tools to monitor who crosses the border and how long they stay.
The $3.2 billion bill would take advantage of many new technological tools on the market to track foreign students on temporary visas and check passenger lists of incoming jetliners from overseas.
It also would create a database from law enforcement sources that could help immigration officials bar possible terrorists, and it would require all travel documents for those entering the country to include biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or retinal scans.
The legislation, approved by the Senate 97-0, already has passed the House and is on a fast track. President Bush is expected to sign it after the House and Senate make minor changes to the bill.
However, experts in the field cautioned that it is not a panacea.
"Biometrics can be a helpful part of [the] solution, but fingerprinting every person who comes across the border will be difficult," said Peter Kant, a director with the Jefferson Consulting Group, a company involved in security.
Douglas Doan, vice president at New Technology Management Inc., said that biometrics is only a small piece of the solution.
"Border security is not achieved with one technology," Doan cautioned. "It is not achieved [by] hiring more people. There just aren't enough people to hold hands along the border. We need a mix of good technology and targeting tools."
The border security bill would increase the pay of border patrol agents and allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to hire 200 new investigators and another 200 inspectors.
It also would require INS to establish a foreign student tracking system that records the acceptance of aliens by educational institutions, the issuance of student visas and the enrollment of aliens at schools. Several of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks were in the country on student visas.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said the bill is expected to close those loopholes. Some of these individuals "came in under student visas because they were looking for weaknesses to get into the United States in a less restrictive, reviewed area," Brownback said. "So that is why this has been at the very heart of this bill."
No Windfall For IllegalsAssociated Press – by Gina Holland – March 30, 2002
Immigrants who work illegally in American plants, restaurants and fields do not have the same rights to restitution as U.S. citizens who are mistreated on the job, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The Court ruled that a plastics company owed nothing to a Mexican man who used a friend's identification to get a job. The Bush administration argued that without the threat of punishment for employers, some of the millions of undocumented workers in the United State might be exploited.
Justices split 5-4 along ideological lines on whether companies can be forced to give backpay to illegal workers wrongly fired or demoted.
"Awarding back pay to illegal aliens runs counter to policies underlying" federal immigration laws, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in the Court's opinion.
The National Labor Relations Board has been allowing wronged undocumented workers to collect backpay since 1995. The board makes sure that employees are not punished for engaging in union activities and protesting employment conditions. The chief tool is requiring backpay, or restitution.
"This decision has ominous implications for the enforcement of labor laws across the board," said William B. Gould IV, the board's chairman from 1994-98. "It will bring into our borders more exploitable low-wage workers."
As many as 7 million undocumented workers have jobs in the United States, the Court was told. Six states with high immigration populations had argued that punishments are needed to protect workers.
The Supreme Court has held that undocumented workers are protected by federal labor laws. Justices said in this case that did not entitle them to backpay "for wages that could not lawfully have been earned and for a job obtained in the first instance by a criminal fraud."
Jose Castro had a minimum wage job operating a plant blender at Hoffman Plastic Compound's plant in Paramount, Calif. He and three other employees were laid off in 1989 after they supported efforts to unionize the plant. He did not speak English, nor did half of the other plant workers, according to court records. The labor board said Hoffman owed Castro about $67,000.
Hoffman can be subject to "significant other sanctions," including a requirement that it prominently post a notice to employees about their rights, Rehnquist said in the decision.
"That's meaningless. That's simply a slap on the wrist," said Gould, who now teaches labor law at Stanford University.
Maurice Baskin, Hoffman's lawyer, said the Court used common sense in determining "employers should not be required to make windfall payments to illegal aliens."
Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer said the backpay penalty "reasonably helps to deter unlawful activity that both labor laws and immigration laws seek to prevent."
Joining Breyer were Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The decision was criticized by immigrant and women's rights groups.
"Even though we pay lip service to the idea that there are basic human rights, we are willing to relax those human rights for a group of folks we wish were not in the country," said Martha Davis, legal director for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided 5-4 with Castro, who was fired after handing out union cards to fellow employees.
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, West Virginia and Puerto Rico urged the Supreme Court to uphold that decision.
The case is Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. National Labor Relations Board, 00-1595.
Broken Immigration SystemWashington Times – by John McCaslin – March 22, 2002
(3/21/02) - A frustrated immigration-law judge recently made a point of contacting Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican he knew to be an outspoken critic of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. What the judge got off his chest is frightening, particularly in the wake of September 11.
"Every single day," the judge is quoted as saying, "I bring the gavel down and order someone to be deported, and some of these people have made threats against the United States. Every day, they walk out of my courtroom and they walk right back into American society."
Mr. Tancredo couldn't believe his ears.
The judge, who requested anonymity because he continues to serve on the bench, told the congressman: "Oftentimes, the INS comes into the courtroom and they are supposed to be the prosecutor in the case, but they act as the defense attorney. I know that there are thousands, I think hundreds of thousands, of people who have been allowed to essentially walk, people that I and my colleagues have ordered to be deported for various reasons who are still simply out there."
Mr. Tancredo inquired how many.
"I've done some preliminary checking here," the judge said, "and I think there are at least 200,000." The congressman immediately hung up and dialed the INS for verification. To his surprise, they reported that anywhere from 200,000 to 250,000 persons that immigration-law courts had ordered "deported" were still living in the United States.
Mr. Tancredo suspected there were more. INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar had just finished giving a speech in the House when the congressman approached him and asked if he knew a more exact number.
According to the congressman, Mr. Ziglar replied: "I don't know. I don't know anything about that."
He did his best to find out. Testifying later under oath in Congress, the INS commissioner identified 314,000 persons who had been ordered deported but still remained here. (A subsequent independent report put the number as high as 425,000 in the five years since 1996, which the congressman says is as far back as records go.)
"But [Mr. Ziglar] is the guy that told me he did not know [the deportee problem] even existed," Mr. Tancredo points out. "So why would we feel comfortable in listening to him tell us what the real numbers are, when he did not know that [the INS] even had a problem? This is the head of the agency."
On a lighter note, the congressman is now proposing that the new logo for the INS, "something that should be on all of their documents, on the top of everything they send out, the logo ... for the INS should simply be a person shrugging their shoulders."
Fraudulent IDs for Illegal ImmigrantsThe Charlotte Observer – by Tim Funk – March 18, 2002
(3/16/02) - When David arrived in Charlotte last month, he went looking for a job carrying a fake Social Security card.
It worked: He's now cleaning rooms at a hotel, sending much of what he earns back to his wife and kids in Central America.
David, who's in his 30s, knows he could go to jail or be deported for using the authentic-looking card, which he bought -- along with a fraudulent "green card" -- for $140.
"It's worth the risk," he says through an interpreter. "It's the only way for me to get a job in this rich country."
Getting a nine-digit number that can pass for the U.S. government-issued ID is often the first order of business for illegal immigrants who come to boomtowns such as Charlotte.
But after Sept. 11, the same fake numbers are increasingly tipping off security-conscious agencies looking to track down people in the country illegally.
After auditing employment records at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced last week that it had identified more than 260 illegal immigrants. Among them: 65 indicted on charges of using false information to get access to secure areas.
The Social Security Administration is also cracking down, sending letters to Harris Teeter and Food Lion in recent months that resulted in the firing of dozens of undocumented Latino employees of their N.C. stores. Late this year, Social Security also will begin sending letters to every company that has even one employee whose name and number don't match. Before, only businesses with a high percentage of workers with bad numbers would get letters.
The change doesn't mean federal agents will soon be swooping down on every grocery store, hotel and lawn service with illegal immigrants on their payroll, says Buster Williams, an Atlanta-based agent of the Social Security Administration who participated in the investigation at Charlotte/Douglas. "But I can tell you that 9/11 definitely heightened the interest in working these type cases."
Reputation of working hard
Before homeland security became the nation's watchword, many businesses were so eager to hire Hispanics, who had a reputation for working hard for little pay, that they took little notice of obviously fake documents. Deb McLean, vice president of marketing at Charlotte Metro Credit Union, even heard of some Latinos who tried to open accounts with phony Social Security numbers supplied by their companies. "Some would say, `My employer told me to use this number,' " she says.
Sept. 11 has quieted such talk. And the airport sweep, one of several around the country that snared mostly Mexican janitors, has re-ignited the Carolinas debate over illegal immigration.
No one can say how many undocumented workers live in the two states, but North Carolina has the country's fastest-growing Latino population; South Carolina ranks sixth.
In the past week, many local listeners of talk radio have called in to applaud the airport arrests and urge the INS to step up enforcement of immigration laws.
But many businesses would like to find a way to legalize immigrant workers.
"I don't think the federal government realizes what a pivotal role these Hispanic workers play in our economy," says Jim Johnson, a professor of management at UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School.
"If these actions continue, it's going to be like a house of cards -- our economy is going to crumble."
All about the number
Since 1937, Social Security has been withdrawing money from paychecks, then counting it toward workers' retirement. The numbers Americans are assigned when they begin working keep track of who is to get what.
But in the past 20 years, the Social Security number has effectively become a person's ID -- "the main number," says McLean of the credit union.
"It really took off with the strides in technology," she says. "Colleges use it to keep track of students. Many states use it for driver's licenses. Banks and credit unions use it to open accounts and check credit histories."
And businesses are required to ask for it when hiring.
That's the first lesson newcomers learn when they arrive in the States: To work, they must have a Social Security number.
But since illegal immigrants can't get one from the government, they buy one.
According to interviews with illegal immigrants and those who work with them, more than a dozen underground forgers cater to Spanish-speakers in Charlotte. African and Asian immigrants, they say, have their own networks.
Typically, immigrants who want a fake ID will rely on friends or word of mouth to get a forger's cell phone or pager number.
"I need some help getting documents to work," the immigrant might say when someone answers.
There's no mention of a Social Security number or a "green card," the nickname for the INS-issued ID, complete with photo, which says the holder lives here legally.
The business transaction is done at the forger's place, where he keeps his scanner and other equipment, or at the immigrant's home, after dark, when the forger shows up with a camera.
A package deal -- one Social Security card, one green card -- can cost between $120 and $150. Sometimes the cards are dead ringers for the real thing; sometimes they look fake, with misspellings ("varification" instead of "verification"), creative artwork of U.S. eagles, and photos that look tacked on.
Some immigrants find legal residents, often living in another state, who are willing to sell the use of their real numbers and names.
That can get expensive: $1,000 and up.
Effects of crackdown
What will happen as federal agencies get tougher? There are some clues.
When the Social Security Administration contacted Harris Teeter in November, the grocery chain gave those workers on the list three weeks, until mid-December, to come up with legal numbers.
Half of them did. And the other half?
"A number of them left on their own accord," said Harris Teeter spokeswoman Jessica Graham.
Nolo Martinez, director of Hispanic/Latino affairs for N.C. Gov. Mike Easley, says he expects the federal crackdown to merely create what he calls a revolving door for illegal workers.
"If employees can't produce the right numbers," he says, "they'll leave that job and go get another one."
Probably using the same fake Social Security number, he says.