Posted on June 25, 2009

Identity Theft, Document Fraud, and Illegal Employment

Press Release, Center for Immigration Studies, June 25, 2009

Contact: Bryan Griffith, (202) 466-8185,

In May of this year, a Supreme Court decision severely impeded the use of identity theft charges as an immigration enforcement tool. In June, several people were arrested after a fraud scheme was uncovered at a Florida driver’s license bureau. In July, a new Utah law targeting illegal aliens and document fraud will take effect. As these examples show, illegal immigration is inherently tied to document fraud and identity theft. As states continue to search for answers, it is apparent that the Federal government has not yet found a working legislative solution to deter these crimes.

A new Backgrounder by the Center for Immigration Studies considers how illegal aliens perpetrate document fraud and identity theft, the effects on the victims of this crime, as well as some proposals to deter it. “Illegal, but Not Undocumented: Identity Theft, Document Fraud and Illegal Employment,” is written by Ronald Mortensen, PhD, a retired career U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former Society for Human Resource Management senior executive. The Backgrounder is available online at:

The findings include:

Illegal immigrants are not “undocumented.” They have fraudulent documents such as counterfeit Social Security cards, forged drivers licenses, fake “green cards,” and phony birth certificates. Experts suggest that approximately 75 percent of working-age illegal aliens use fraudulent Social Security cards to obtain employment.

Most (98 percent) Social Security number (SSN) thieves use their own names with stolen numbers. The federal E-Verify program, now mandated in only 14 states, can detect this fraud. Universal, mandatory use of E-Verify would curb this and stop virtually 100 percent of child identity theft.

Illegal immigration and high levels of identity theft go hand-in-hand. States with the most illegal immigration also have high levels of job-related identity theft. In Arizona, 33 percent or all identity theft is job-related (as opposed to identity theft motivated simply by profit). In Texas it is 27 percent; in New Mexico, 23 percent; in Colorado, 22 percent; California, 20 percent; and in Nevada, 16 percent. Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of illegal aliens in their total population are among the top 10 states in identity theft (Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, Nevada, New York, Georgia, and Colorado).

Children are prime targets. In Arizona, it is estimated that over one million children are victims of identity theft. In Utah, 1,626 companies were found to be paying wages to the SSNs of children on public assistance under the age of 13. These individuals suffer very real and very serious consequences in their lives.

* Illegal aliens commit felonies in order to get jobs. Illegal aliens, who use fraudulent documents, perjure themselves on I-9 forms, and commit identity theft in order to get jobs are committing serious offenses and are not “law abiding.”

* Illegally employed aliens send billions of dollars annually to their home countries, rather than spending it in the United States and helping stimulate the American economy. In October 2008 alone, $2.4 billion was transferred to Mexico.

* Tolerance of corruption erodes the rule of law. Corruption is a serious problem in most illegal aliens’ home countries. Allowing it to flourish here paves the way for additional criminal activity and increased corruption throughout society.

* Leaders support perpetrators and ignore victims. Political, civic, religious, business, education, and media leaders blame Americans for “forcing” illegal aliens to commit document fraud and identity theft. No similar concern is expressed for the American men, women, and children whose lives are destroyed in the process.

* The Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service facilitate illegal immigrant-driven identity theft. Both turn a blind eye to massive SSN fraud and take no action to stop it. The Social Security Administration assigns SSNs to new-born infants that are being used illegally. The IRS demands that victims pay taxes on wages earned by illegal aliens using their stolen SSNs, while taking no action to stop the identity theft.

* State and local governments need to adopt tougher laws to supplement federal efforts. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is targeting large document fraud rings and the most egregious employers, but their resources are limited and stretched across multiple priorities. In 2007, identity theft cases represented only 7 percent of the total ICE case load.

* Employers must do their part. They can ensure that they have a legal workforce by using a combination of the federal government’s E-Verify and Social Security Number Verification Service systems and by signing up for the federal government’s IMAGE program or privately conducted audits.

[Editor’s Note: “Illegal, but Not Undocumented: Identity Theft, Document Fraud, and Illegal Employment,” by Robert Mortensen, can be read on-line or downloaded as a PDF file here.]