The Ubiquity of Illegal Immigration, Even unto Puerto Rico

By David North on September 29, 2010

You rarely hear about international migration to Puerto Rico, for the simple reason that people are much more likely to leave that island than migrate to it.

But, as a recent ICE press release indicated, illegal immigration is so widespread in the American system that there are illegal aliens even in that perpetually depressed territory.

ICE, of course, was not making that point – it was just announcing that its agents in Puerto Rico had broken up an effort to bribe one of its officers, as a local bar and bakery owner sought to avoid trouble for employing illegal aliens.

As to migration to Puerto Rico, a couple of numbers are helpful. There were about 304 million residents of the U.S. in 2008, and of these about 4 million (or about 1.3 percent) lived in Puerto Rico. However, about 0.36 percent of the people with new green cards in FY 2009 opted to live on the island. So migrants are nearly four times less likely to go to Puerto Rico than to the United States proper.

There's a reason for that; if there is a lot of unemployment on the Mainland, and there is, there is a lot more in Puerto Rico. In June, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 9.6 percent unemployment rate natiowide, but 16.6 percent on the island. For a chart of this, see here.

Not content with using the extensive unemployment around him to hire people at low wages, Juan De Miguel-Rodriguez, the employer, unwittingly hired a government informant (designated as SA-539-SJ) on April 22, 2008; SA-539 apparently identified himself as an illegal from the nearby Dominican Republic. All of this is from the government's complaint, filed with the federal court system's PACER electronic database, which is available online for a small fee.

The leisurely ICE investigation, which had started on January 16, 2008, picked up a little speed on May 29, 2008, when SA-539, apparently wearing a wire, asked for a few days off to return to the Dominican Republic. De Miguel then asked his employee how he was going to arrange this, given his illegal status. SA-539 said he knew a (corrupt) U.S. government employee, and had secured an illicit green card from that person. (I am assuming that the whistleblower was a male, but the government document was careful to hide that person's gender, so I might be wrong.)

Time passed, with SA-539 still in touch with ICE, and perhaps still on the ICE payroll.

On July 27, 2009, a year and a half after the start of this activity, De Miguel was served with three "Notices of Inspection" regarding his payroll audit by ICE; four days later the employer remembered the previous year's conversation with SA-539 and asked the informer to connect the employer with the corrupt official. The connection was made and De Miguel, who had suggested a $10,000 bribe to undo the investigation, or to mitigate the expected fine, made the payment to an undercover ICE agent, posing as the corrupt official. That happened in November 2009.

On September 24, 2010, ICE finally got around to arresting the employer and a co-conspirator.

In addition to indicating that illegal-alien employment is a problem even in Puerto Rico, and showing the glacial pace of some government investigations, the story illustrates the combination of greed and klutziness that characterizes the behavior of some employers.

Let's assume that De Miguel had no concerns about breaking the law, by hiring illegal aliens. Despite that posture, you might think that he would check out the possible legal consequences of hiring illegal aliens – such as the extent of the slap on the wrist that he was likely to face from the feds. But no, he decided to be assertive, to hunt out a stranger to bribe, and then to pay that stranger $10,000 in five packages of $100 bills.

The story also presents a different view of the role of the government informer from the ones we typically read about in the newspapers; in these we often see how the informer more or less organized the would-be terrorists, in some cases doing the buying of the explosives, while the alleged terrorists sort of followed his lead.

In this case – and for this ICE is to be commended – the informer played a largely passive role, and the criminally minded employer assertively dug his own grave.