Today's commentary could be categorized as another “Good news / Bad News” story and was predicated on a news release that was posted on the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) website on January 11, 2012.
First the good news:
Certainly the fact that special agents of ICE were able to identify and dismantle a massive identity theft ring marks an Important success in combating an increasingly serious criminal problem that impacts the people whose identities were stolen and also has all sorts of other potential ramifications on a host of issues that could involve criminal justice and even national security.
The fact that the successful investigation involved personnel from a number of federal law enforcement agencies as well as local police departments, working in close cooperation with ICE, also shows how important this sort of “task force” approach to law enforcement can have a synergistic affect where the sum of the component agencies are greater than such agencies working alone. Score another success for the “Good Guys.”
The fact that these agencies all worked cooperatively, including local police agencies, shows, however that the claims that when local police work at enforcing immigration laws community policing suffers are not only unfounded, but that such cooperative investigations are essential.
Something else to consider, while not all cases of identity theft relate specifically to the issue of immigration- the explosion of the number of illegal aliens in our country has generated an exponential increase in the demand for stolen identities- yet another crime related to illegal immigration that does serious harm to law abiding citizens and lawful immigrants. Just another example of how illegal immigration is not a victimless crime!
Now we get to that which I find disturbing:
There was not a single word in the entire news release that addressed the nationalities of either the bad guys who were indicted or the customers for whom the documents were being procured either to say that these customers were “undocumented aliens” and other residing in the United States. The news release also noted that some of the ring members used purloined Puerto Rican identification documents for themselves.
The issue here is that it is entirely possible that United States citizens may certainly have availed themselves of this opportunity to acquire a new identity to obfuscate their true identities to commit crimes or, in some cases, to evade law enforcement authorities who may have been searching for them because they are fugitives from justice. It must, however, be presumed that at least some of the customers are, in fact illegal aliens. The same sort of suppositions must be made about those who have been indicted in this case.
It is essential for a number of reasons that when aliens are indicted for crimes they commit in the United States that their immigration status be taken into account for a couple of fundamental reasons. First of all, when these defendants are arrested, once they are processed (photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed), they will next be taken before a federal magistrate who will decide on the appropriate bail for these defendants. A detention (bail) hearing focuses on two issues- danger to the community and risk of flight. In a case where there was no evidence of violence, which would seem to be the case here, it is entirely likely that a magistrate would be amenable to providing the defendants with the opportunity to post bail. Since danger to the community is not extreme, the issue of risk of flight takes on particular significance. If a defendant is an illegal alien, the risk of flight leaps dramatically. Aliens have an “escape hatch” through which they can and, in fact, often utilize- they can flee the United States and head for their home countries where extradition may be difficult if not impossible.
Certainly a news release should not be expected to lay out all of the issues of an investigation, especially one in which the case is in its formative stages- the defendants are indicted at this point and not convicted, however, my concern is with the fact that all too often, immigration-related factors in cases pursued by ICE are not highlighted or given the weight that they should be given.
I am also concerned about the clientele of this massive fraud ring. We know that the 19 terrorists who attacked our nation on September 11, 2001 used 364 false identities or variations of false identities. While the news release did not delve into all of these issues, I hope that the agents and prosecutors will do everything possible to not only arrest the alleged members of the massive fraud ring- but go after those who purchased the documents. These “clients” have acquired a potential legal title- that title is “Co-conspirator!”
Here is a final thought that may not help you to sleep, but as I have told members of Congress when I conducted discussions with them about my many concerns about the vulnerabilities that threaten us from so many directions, “If I cannot sleep at night, I do not want you to be able to sleep at night, either!”
We know that there are a number of elite Iranian shock troops known as “Qods” who are currently stationed in Venezuela. We also know that there are terrorist training camps located in the Tri-Border region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay who belong to Hezbollah, Hammas and, likely, al-Qaeda. Such individuals who would reside in Latin America for a significant period of time could easily pass themselves off as citizens of Latin America. If they attempted to enter our country and embed themselves in our country, they would want to have the sort of documentation that these identity thieves could sell them in furtherance of their objectives to hide in plain sight.
With the extremely limited resources ICE has and with the current mindset that illegal aliens who have no criminal convictions should not be arrested and deported but provided with employment authorization, I have some serious misgivings about what may get overlooked.
I would hate to see defeat snatched from the jaws of victory!