ICE Exercises Prosecutorial Discretion for ID Fraud

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 20, 2012

It's a good thing North Carolina (and Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia) saw fit to enact stronger E-Verify laws that go into effect in 2013, because the Obama administration is making no effort to address the rampant identity fraud that enables illegal aliens to get jobs and wreak havoc in the lives of unsuspecting Americans.

One recent case illustrates the government's indifference to this problem. On July 30, 2012, illegal alien Lorena Yanez-Mata went to her local Time Warner store in Burlington, N.C., to sign up for cable television service. When the clerk declined to accept her Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) as identification (bravo!), Mata provided an altered Social Security card with a fake number that she later admitted that she has used to get jobs. Mata now works clearing tables at a local restaurant. (North Carolina has the fifth worst unemployment rate in the nation.)

The clerk asked an off-duty police officer who works in security to take a look at the suspicious card. He called the Social Security Administration, which confirmed that the card did not belong to Mata. After arrest by Burlington police, Mata was booked into jail and identified as an illegal alien. Local ICE agents, doing their job, put Mata into removal proceedings. (It had to be ICE agents, because Alamance County's 287(g) agreement was cancelled a few months ago following a faux investigation by the Department of Justice.)

Local illegal alien advocacy groups launched a campaign to stop Mata's deportation. They picketed Time Warner cable, instigated sympathetic media coverage, and launched phone-calling and letter-writing campaigns to ICE headquarters and the North Carolina congressional delegation. It worked. Time Warner told prosecutors it wanted to drop charges, and ICE halted the proceedings.

From one news account:

"She did nothing wrong", said Jose Rico, a member of the N.C. Dream Team, a pro-immigration group that's taken up Yanez-Mata's cause. Rico served as interpreter for Yanez-Mata who doesn't speak English.

"She just wanted to come here and get cable services for her daughter", Rico continued.

(Mata appears to be ineligible for the DACA amnesty, as she reportedly is 26 and has been living in the United States for eight years, not since childhood. Perhaps her advocates can arrange for a new fake ID and story so she can qualify. Under DACA rules, USCIS will look the other way at any prior ID theft.)

An Interview with William Riley
on Identity Theft:
View the Full Interview

The implementation of state E-Verify mandates should take care of some of this identity fraud, at least with respect to illegal employment. But what about the other potential victims? Will anyone investigate Mata's use of the fake number beyond her cable TV purchase and illegal employment?

Despite what ICE leadership thinks, identity fraud is no trivial matter. Two days ago, Garvin Cadogan, a Trinidadian man living in El Paso, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for child pornography crimes and falsely claiming U.S. citizenship. He had stolen the identity of an elderly disabled man in Pennsylvania. This man's Social Security benefits were cut off, he had to rely on friends and family to live, and he nearly lost his home, all because Cadogan was using his identity to work illegally.

For more, see my colleague Ron Mortensen's Backgrounder on immigration-related identity fraud.

Since Lorena Yanez-Mata was not convicted of a crime related to sex, drugs, terrorism, or intellectual property and has U.S.-born children, most likely we will never know if her identity fraud was as injurious as Cadogan's. Local prosecutors say they are looking at new charges, but they will have to rely on their own laws and authorities to hold Mata accountable and to deny her employment. To the feds, she is another compelling humanitarian case worthy of prosecutorial discretion and public support.