Government Sometimes Does the Right Thing in Immigration Cases

By David North on September 21, 2011

While this blog is often critical of governmental actions – and inactions – in immigration matters, sometimes the government does exactly the right thing. Here are three recent examples, from three different agencies:

  1. ICE breaks up a wholesale immigration fraud ring of bogus Christians;

  2. USCIS reminds employers not to collect illegal fees from H-class guestworkers; and

  3. State warns against fraud in the diversity lottery program.

Ideally, of course, there would be no visa lottery program in which to engage in fraud, and the temporary worker programs would be a matter of history, but both those decisions would have to be made at the congressional level, so let's give the executive branch three small cheers on what it has done in these instances.

Wholesale immigration fraud. Most crime-fighting is on the retail, or one-off level. Some individual kills, attempts to kill, rob, or otherwise harm someone else. It is important to get the bad guy, despite the amount of effort it may take.

On the other hand, sometimes crime comes in wholesale lots, in instances in which the whole business is an assembly-line production of criminality. By definition, law enforcement gets more bang for the buck when it is successful in a case of this kind, rather than in a one-bad-guy case. And when the investigation closes the door to more illegal immigration, as it did in this case, so much the better.

Earlier this month U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement broke up an asylum fraud ring that had conspired to create totally phony asylum stories for 800 applicants over a period of 11 years. The two L.A.-area masterminds of the program, Haoren Ma and Minghan Dong, had helped create fraudulent asylum claims for what apparently was a large, or totally, Chinese clientele.

Ma and Dong must have been aware of a strong current in American political culture, and exploited it. They apparently noticed that Americans were suspicious of Communist China (after the Korean and the Vietnamese Wars, who could blame them); that most Americans were Christians and many of them were devout, fundamentalist Christians; and that Mainland China had, with differing degrees of fervor, treated some indigenous Christians badly.

So they decided to build stories of political persecution for illegal, mainly economic, migrants from China as they sought to abuse the asylum system, according to an ICE press release. Ma and Dong prepared their clients well, and made sure that they knew something about Christianity. According to the release:

The affidavit notes many of those applications contained nearly identical accounts of purported persecution, including descriptions of underground church meetings that led to the applicant's arrest and torture by Chinese authorities. The affidavit goes on to describe how the defendants [Ma and Dong] provided their clients with detailed written materials and audio tapes on Christianity to help them prepare for their asylum interviews. One of the DVDs furnished to a confidential informant posing as an asylum seeker was labeled "Jesus 1".

Routinely American government is ultra-sensitive to the interests of all religious groups, even including such elements as the tiny minority of Mormon polygamists; USCIS, for instance, will not identify the churches (largely fringe institutions) that abuse the R-1 nonimmigrant religious workers program, as I pointed out in an earlier blog.

But in this instance ICE disregarded that tendency and went after a segment of the alien community that was playing (illegally, of course) the Christian card, and is to be heartily congratulated for doing so.

One hopes that with this rock-solid evidence in hand, DHS will start reviewing some or all of those 800 bogus asylum applications, and will begin to deport the aliens involved. I would not hold my breath.

On the other hand, once this kind of fraud has been exposed in one location, it will be noted in others, and that may limit the future use of these phony stories.

Employers to pay the guestworker fees. In the H-2A (farmworker) and H-2B (non-agricultural worker) programs, there have been problems with employers illicitly forcing these unskilled workers to pay fees to get into these programs.

Fortunately, in these two programs, but not in the J-1 programs run by the State Department, it is illegal for employers to pass these fees onto the workers. USCIS recently reminded employers of this fact in an announcement.

Given the low level of literacy of these workers, and their dependence on their U.S. employers, this was a commendable move.

Such a notice does two useful things simultaneously: it treats the workers better and it runs up the cost of such programs, discouraging, one hopes, the wider use of that program in the future. The more expensive the guestworker program, generally, the less likely it is to be used, thus opening more jobs for the millions of unemployed permanent residents of this country.

So, a small cheer for USCIS.

Fraud warning in the diversity visa program. The Department of State has issued a warning regarding "scammers ... posing as the U.S. government in an attempt to extract payments from DV applicants ..."

It reminds people that the government does not e-mail notices regarding who has won such a visa; rather it counts on applicants to check a website run by the department that serves that function.

Diversity visa applicants are otherwise inadmissable aliens who file in a once-a-year immigration lottery run by our government (no other government in the world does anything like this). All the alien needs to be is a high school graduate and to live in a country that does not already supply many immigrants to the U.S. Millions apply and about 50,000 immigrants each year come through this channel.

For more on this bizarre part of our immigration program, read the testimony of my colleague, Janice Kephart, before the House Immigration Subcommittee, earlier this year.

While it is useful for State to issue such a warning, I wonder (from a personal experience to be discussed in a future blog) how vigorous it is in countering such scammers.