Illegal Immigration and Identity Theft

By Jon Feere on September 12, 2008

Evidence that the attrition-through-enforcement strategy is working continues to mount. Smithfield Foods, the focus of two ICE workplace enforcement measures last year, has joined the voluntary “ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers” (IMAGE) program which, among other things, requires businesses to enroll in E-Verify. Businesses joining the program will be deemed “IMAGE Certified,” a distinction that DHS believes will become “an industry standard.” In the long-run, the “jobs magnet” will be turned off, and illegal immigration will be reduced.

“When the raids occurred,” said Dick Poulson, an executive vice president of Smithfield Foods, “we saw the writing on the wall. We think we’ve taken steps to protect our employees by hopefully checking credentials and seeing that we’re not vulnerable to people stealing identities.”

Poulson raises a point not mentioned often enough: in addition to undercutting wages and undermining the rule of law, illegal immigration also creates incentives for identity theft. City Journal’s Steven Malanga does a great job addressing this relationship in a recent article. Every year, countless numbers of Americans have their Social Security numbers stolen and their credit damaged by illegal aliens. For example, Arizona officials recently arrested suspected illegal aliens Jose Ozuna Alvarez and Ana Laura Balerrama on charges of applying for a $159,000 home loan using stolen Social Security numbers and false immigration documents. According to the officials, the pair got jobs, bought new vehicles, and obtained multiple credit cards with stolen Social Security numbers, one of which belonged to a 9-year-old child.

Identity Theft 911, a organization that specializes in the subject, estimates that in the illegal-immigrant heavy state of Arizona, 1.57 million people – equivalent to a quarter of the state’s population – have been victims of identity theft over the last six years alone. Certainly each theft is not the result of illegal immigration, but tolerating illegal immigration means tolerating increased rates of identity theft.

Ultimately, a serious commitment to the enforcement of immigration law is necessary if we are serious about keeping identity theft in check.