There is plenty of room for both deliberate applicant fraud and deliberate administrative fuzziness (in definitions) in the White House's newly announced Dream Scheme.
This is the proposed exercise of "prosecutorial discretion" to grant short-term legal status to a group of young illegal aliens, those who claim to have arrived before 16 and subsequently enrolled in and graduated from U.S. high schools, as described in prior blogs here and here.
An obvious example of fraud involves illegal aliens who otherwise qualify, but who arrived in the country after the age of 16. There are no date-stamped documents issued to people who cross the Rio Grande by night.
A less obvious example of the opportunities the government has to blur definitions in favor of applicants can be found in the DHS memo on eligibility, in which the standard includes the provision that the "individual … is currently in school".
Does "is" mean (and one thinks of President Clinton as this is written) in school on June 15, 2012, when the order was issued, or does it mean on the date that the illegal alien applies for relief. Is the population of eligibles frozen on June 15? Or does it include any illegal alien who registers with a school just before he or she applies for prosecutorial discretion?
And how will DHS define "school"?
In any such program the devil is both in the inevitable fraud, and in the governmental definitions, as I learned a quarter of a century ago when the Ford Foundation assigned me the task of evaluating the massive legalization program that came out of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).
Let's review the threat scenario in the Dream Scheme. In addition to those who genuinely meet the program's generous outline, there will be applicants who will try to beat the system. These are some of the inevitable problems:
- Aliens claiming that they arrived prior to their 16th birthdays when, in fact, they came later.
- Aliens claiming to be under 30 when they are older than that.
- Aliens who are otherwise eligible, but who have not been here for five years.
- Aliens who, in fact, have not graduated from high school, are not in school, and who do not have a GED, but who make such claims.
- Aliens, otherwise eligible, who were not in the nation on June 15, 2012.
Another general problem — that an alien would lie about his police record — is less pressing because the government keeps pretty good records on whom it arrests, as opposed to those who entered the nation without inspection (EWI).
My basic worry is that an already overworked DHS staff will not press very hard to uncover fraud on such difficult areas as age at entry and that it will grant short-term legal status to some early fraudulent applicants, who will then tell their peers how easy it is to fool the government on issues such as age at entry and then the peers, in large numbers, will apply for status.
I am concerned about the flood of plausible-looking "documents" purporting to be diplomas, report cards, General Education Development (GED) certificates, and the like that will be submitted to the government; also, overseas birth certificates showing ages under 30.
I am even more concerned about the alternative possibilities that DHS will try to make eligibility decisions without actually interviewing the applicants, the current practice in the roughly comparable Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program; or that there will be initial interviews, recommending denial, that are overturned by higher officials, as was the pattern in many cases with the IRCA legalization.
Footnote: In an earlier blog I wrote of the lack of a fee attached to these applications. That still seems to be the case for the basic application, but most of the successful applicants will then proceed to seek an employment authorization document (EAD), which comes with a $380 fee and probably, unless one or both are waived by a generous government, a fingerprinting fee of $85. So there will be some fee income to the government to help fund the processing of these applications.