The political uproar over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's staffer who committed marriage fraud with an immigrant highlights a very serious type of immigration offense. Fake marriages to enable undeserving foreigners to get a visa under false pretenses are just as wrong as sneaking across the border. (CIS has written about marriage fraud here.)
Immigration benefit fraud runs rampant, only you'd never know it from the lack of publicity this crime gets. Part of the reason: This fraud happens episodically and primarily gets exposed at the end of a long, involved investigation. For example, a Florida man's fraud ring assisted 300 illegal aliens from all over Latin America. A Texas fraud ring arranged Cambodian aliens' sham marriages and other visa fraud. Then there's the case of the Mexican actress entering a sham marriage for an immigration benefit. These illustrative episodes don't scratch the surface of fraud's occurrence, nor do they catch the public's attention like an embattled senator's law-breaking staffer in the heat of the political season.
The Government Accountability Office has reported on the significant threat immigration benefit fraud poses to the United States:
Although the full extent of benefit fraud is not known, available evidence suggests that it is an ongoing and serious problem. Fraudulent documents submitted included but were not limited to marriage and birth certificates, financial statements, business plans, organizational charts, fictitious employee resumes, and college transcripts. White-collar and other criminals can facilitate immigration benefit fraud. Individuals who pose a threat to national security and public safety may seek to enter the United States by fraudulently obtaining immigration benefits. Moreover, those facilitating immigration benefit fraud, in some cases, have reaped large profits from aliens willing to pay thousands of dollars to fraudulently obtain an immigration benefit.
Thankfully, the news broke on Sen. Reid's press aide and her low regard for the law and for marriage. Its exposure of immigration benefit fraud serves an important public service.