True Immigration Reform Starts with Cracking Down on Visa Fraud

Published on February 26th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
February 26, 2014

On Capitol Hill, immigration is a one-way street. Advocates want legalization for 12 million illegal immigrants, millions more worker visas for both high and low-skilled labor, an end to deportation for aliens, and full federal benefits for all.

In exchange, amnesty opponents get nothing. To be sure, the Senate and House bills make vague references to border security and mandatory E-Verify. But the so-called enforcement would initially be nothing more than, according to the bills’ language, submitting a plan to the Homeland Security Department. Extending the fence between the U.S. and Mexico or adding more border patrol agents is improbable. As for E-Verify, also promised, in 2011 the House refused to move a mandatory bill to the floor for a full vote. If E-Verify didn’t pass then, why should it now?

Opportunities to shore up lax immigration enforcement are many and must be included in a true reform package. The U.S. could start by weeding out the blatant, omnipresent fraud routinely found in asylum and refugee claims.

In a revealing investigative report, the New York Times called asylum fraud in its Chinatown district “an industry of lies.” More Chinese apply for asylum than any other ethnicity. During the last six years, about half of all asylum applications filed by Chinese immigrants not facing deportation were submitted in Manhattan. In recent years, New York has received more applications from Chinese than the next 10 nationalities combined.

Beginning in 2010 federal officials conducted a wide-reaching fraud investigation which secretly recorded conversations in New York law offices that specialize in immigration petitions. The findings were shocking to all except those who have been studying immigration fraud since 1986 when the deception-laden Immigration Reform and Control Act became law.

According to the federal report the Times referenced, a Chinese woman who falsely stated that she had undergone a forced abortion and applied for asylum sought her lawyer’s advice on how to handle her upcoming interview with immigration officials. The taped transcripts revealed that her lawyer counseled her to “just make up” the details since she would be likely only asked “the same rubbish questions.”

During the last decade, the explosion in the Chinese asylum industry has corresponded with an increase in Chinese migration to the United States and in the number of Chinese arriving on temporary visas, many with the intention of overstaying. Since it grants immediate work authorization and green card potential within a year, asylum is the most popular route Chinese nationals take toward permanent residency. Perpetrating fraud does not present a roadblock.

In her November letter to a federal judge, the New York asylum office’s deputy director Ashley B. Caudill-Mirillo blamed fraud as the major reason for the case load explosion. The contrived stories, Caudill-Mirillo explained, are often duplicated from previously successful applicants, and have “wreaked havoc” on the system.

The Times cited Peter Kwong, City University of New York professor and an expert on New York’s Chinese population who called falsified asylum applications that include forged documents and invented witness testimony an open secret throughout the community. Kwong agrees with Caudill-Mirillo that, in his words, “The law itself provides a huge loophole, and that loophole cannot be closed because of the politics.” 

Although 30 people including lawyers, paralegals and interpreters were indicted in the Chinatown scam, the sting represents a tiny drop in the immigration fraud ocean. Student, visitor, fiancée, high skilled worker, religious, exceptional talent (Justin Bieber) and dozens more visas are riddled with criminal fraud.

Before embarking on a huge comprehensive amnesty bill that would also be rife with deceits and deception, the U.S. should close those “huge loopholes” Kwong identified. That would be the first step in the right direction and would hopefully lead to stronger enforcement  throughout.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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