Why Is There So Little Interior Immigration Enforcement?

By David North, December 15, 2014

Why is there so little enforcement of the immigration laws, except right at the southern border?

The basic reason, of course, is that except for intercepting those entering without inspection (EWIs), the administration is not very interested in the subject.

It does not want to do much in the interior, beyond deporting the most obvious of the criminals among the illegal aliens, and is not even very enthusiastic about that activity.

Within this context, however, there are other barriers to enforcement, problems that persist no matter what the mood of the party in power. With that in mind, I have devised a taxonomy of immigration fraud showing the numerous ways that the immigration law can be broken, and some of the built-in difficulties in responding.

The first thing to notice is the incredibly long list of ways that people try to beat the immigration law, considerably condensed in the table below. Aliens, employers, and middlemen of various kinds have devised a plethora of ways to try to violate the law, and some of them are harder to handle than others.

In some cases, the crime is hard to identify; in others, the violators have large lobbies rooting for them; and some violations have no political support. Further, some of these techniques are much more common than others.

We have identified three major sets of enforcement challenges. There are those in which the violator is operating pretty much alone, such as the case of the individual EWI, and the single employer of EWIs and other illegal aliens.

Then there are the INA violators who require an illicit partner to pull off their violation — say the alien who "buys" some citizen's identity along with a phony Social Security card, or, more rarely, the alien who seeks to bribe a federal official to secure something that looks like legal status.

Then there are the more complex schemes in which the violator, sometimes a citizen, seeks to secure an illicit advantage under the law, such as the alien who hires a marriage fraud broker who, in turn, hires a citizen to go through a phony marriage so that the alien can get a family preference visa. Much fraud in the EB-5 immigrant investor program also falls into this category, such as the still unresolved clusters of apparent illegal activities in South Dakota.

So, the further from the border, the more complex the scheme; the more powerful the violator, the less likely the enforcement.


A Taxonomy of Immigration Fraud

Nature of Fraud or Questionable Activity Barriers to Enforcement
Direct Fraud
Alien enters the nation without inspection Few: the scheme is easy to understand; aliens have no U.S.-based equity and can be arrested wholesale
Alien secures a visa fraudulently or later violates terms of a legitimate visa Aliens must be apprehended one at a time in the interior; some have secured an equity
Employer hires illegal workers or mistreats legal nonimmigrant workers Employers as a class are powerful; the Obama
administration cancelled factory raids, which were a very effective enforcement tool
Alien in one-to-one relationship hires a U.S. citizen for marriage to secure a visa This is a labor-intensive crime to fight, though this kind of alien has no lobby
 
Use of a Single Crooked Middleman
Alien buys a phony document from a
purveyor, uses it to enter country
No political barriers and sometimes by hitting the purveyor multiple cases can be broken;
this fraud is not as common as others listed
Alien buys phony driver's license or Social Security card to work in the U.S. Fairly common; there is little recognition by policy makers as to how significant this is
Alien pays a crooked middleman to help
secure a visa through normal channels
Common problem; solution is labor intensive
Alien bribes a federal official to stay in, or to enter the nation Not very common; government is more interested in these cases than many others
Alien wittingly secures F-1 visa to attend a visa mill, where classes are not held Not very common and the agency assigned to this problem, SEVP, is reluctant to use its powers
Middlemen in EB-5 cases cheat alien investors Immigrant investors, who focus on the visas, are often casual about the investments per se
 
More Complex Schemes
Employer secures unneeded workers illegally via a non-immigrant worker program, then rents them out illegally to other employers Not easy to detect, none of the participants are likely to tell authorities
Alien pays a marriage broker to arrange a
phony marriage with a citizen for a visa
No political barrier to enforcement, but not common either
Middlemen, often citizens, misuse EB-5 program in several ways to the detriment of other participants, as in South Dakota cases Middlemen may be politically powerful; complexity of questionable behavior often slows enforcement

Source: Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, D.C.