Wikileaks, Visa Fraud, and a Reverse Twist on the Anchor Baby Scheme

By David North on February 18, 2011

Wikileaks, the unauthorized release of a huge collection of U.S. government documents, has made a useful contribution to the immigration field.

More specifically, it has shed light on the multiplicity of fraudulent visa schemes inflicted on the American immigration system, and most specifically, on those that have been detected by consular officials in Mexico City. My colleague, Jerry Kammer, called the leaked State Department report to my attention.

While most of the visa fraud schemes described reflect pure greed, perhaps the most creative, and certainly the saddest one, deals with what I see as a reverse spin on the Anchor Baby phenomenon; which is usually the birth of a child in the U.S. to an illegal alien.

In this case it could have been a simple adoption of an unwanted infant, recently born in Mexico, by a childless Mexican-American green card couple in California. But instead the couple opted to try to skirt the presumably tedious process of cross-border adoption by instead claiming that the baby in question had been born to the green card woman in Mexico.

Those following the Anchor Baby controversy generally assume that the alien woman sees to it that her baby is born in the U.S., as a U.S. citizen, for the benefits that will come to the baby later in life, and for the parents, as well. Here we have the reverse situation, the legal resident of the U.S. goes to Mexico for the birth, or what is claimed to be one.

When the new mother came to the U.S. embassy to get an entry document for the baby, she encountered an alert (or at least awake) consular official who noticed that here was a birth-at-the-border situation which was going against the grain. He also noticed that the lady was 47 years old, and she was saying that this was her first child. So there were a couple of strong clues that something was highly unusual, if not illegal.

It turned out, on closer questioning, that: "the woman admitted that her cousin had put her in touch with a woman who was considering an abortion, as she had conceived while her husband was living in the U.S. The woman enlisted the help of a doctor in Michoacan to ensure that her name was on the birth documentation."

The baby in question thus had several dubious interactions with international migration before it was a few months old. It was conceived, out of wedlock, by an unnamed man and a woman whose husband was in the U.S., probably illegally; the baby's birth certificate, illegally, changed the name of its mother; and, a little later, the baby's would-be adoptive mother was caught lying about its identity to the U.S. government. A great way to start life!

There is another story, later in the report, about a green card couple, resident in California, who had purchased a little boy for $2,000 in Mexico, and then tried to persuade the embassy that he had been born to them in Mexico. Again, a straightforward adoption would have been better for all concerned.

The leaked document appears to be a standard, periodic report by the embassy to Washington about fraud in the visa process. (There may be others in the Wikileaks collection from other embassies.)

The report, after saying the expected things about the extent of crime and corruption in Mexico, and the easy access to fraudulent documents of all kinds, some of which were said to be quite sophisticated, described both various kinds of fraud encountered and some interesting ways to detect it.

Types of Fraud

The report had another twist on the Anchor Baby Syndrome. What happens if the little U.S.-born child, a U.S. citizen and now back in Mexico, wants to attend public school there? Well schools in Mexico demand (as U.S. school do not) that the child have a Mexican birth certificate, so there is a brisk trade in phony Mexican birth certificates created for just this situation. As Mark Krikorian has mentioned from time to time it is harder to be an illegal alien in Mexico than it is in the U.S.

The embassy noticed a practice in the renting of previously-issued U.S. visas to allow other Mexicans illicit entry into the United States. This practice often involved school teachers. For instance:

In one case, the officer noticed that the male applicant was 11 years younger than his purported wife, a rare occurrence in Mexico. The applicant presented his genuine school teacher credentials, the visa of his supposed wife, and a fraudulent marriage certificate. The applicant admitted . . . that he had paid a coyote 5,000 MXP (approximately 400USD) for the fraudulent package, and he was to pay 5,000 MXP more if the visa was issued.

Another common problem dealt with groups seeking admission to the U.S. Often consular officers found that there were one of more "ringers" in the team or the singing group; most of the applicants were legitimate, but there would be a black sheep or two hiding in the flock.

The embassy also reported that it frequently encountered phony pay stubs, often presented in the course of an application for a non-immigrant visa to prove to the U.S. official that the applicant had a solid, commercial reason for not wanting to leave Mexico once admitted to the U.S.

Detecting or Preventing Fraud

Although it is not presented in the report as a separate element, there were scattered instances in which fraud detection or prevention techniques were mentioned in passing, some of which were new to me.

For instance, if someone is caught, even indirectly, in a visa fraud scheme who already has a U.S. visa, it can be yanked. The female teacher who rented her visa to the previously-mentioned younger male teacher had that happen to her.

Regarding another aspect of the Anchor Baby situation, the embassy apparently has persuaded the Mexican government to enter a code on passports it issues in response to out-of-country applications, such as for babies born in the U.S. This kind of identification, particularly if it is not known to the bearer, will be useful to authorities for the rest of the person's life.

Once upon a time our Social Security numbers carried within the actual number codes which related to the place and year of issuance of the SSN; sadly, that system was dropped many years ago.

Further, there were indications that sheer common sense can be a consular officer's best friend. For instance, note the cases that were broken when the officer noticed that the ages of the applicants (the middle-aged mother and the too-young teacher) did not mesh with the other elements in the visa application.

Finally, there is a reference in the report to breaking an L-1 visa case, in which the applicants said that they had established a business in the U.S. Consular officials became suspicious when the members of the family gave conflicting and inconsistent physical descriptions of the building in which the alleged business was located.

This is roughly similar to the tried-and-true questioning technique used, in separate and simultaneous interviews, when the authorities suspect marriage fraud. Both partners are asked separately a series of identical questions – such as the colors of the curtains in the bedroom or the way coffee is made in the morning. If there is a serious mismatch, the chances are that the immigration-causing marriage is not legitimate.

In summary, the report, which was marked "Unclassified", provides its intended and its unintended readers with some helpful, down-to-earth information about the constant flow of fraudulent applications seen by our consular officials around the world.