« What a mess! | Main | Pentagon Budget Explained »

Immigrants, Identities

"Illegal Worker, Troubled Citzen and Stolen Name," in the March 22 New York Times, tells the contrasting stories of a troubled California woman with no work and a bleak life and an illegal immigrant working in Iowa under the Californian's identity.

Going back to the beginning of the story of the raids (December 2006), the Strib article "ID theft ring exposed before raids" tells one aspect of the story that came out of the raid of the Swift company in Worthington, when I first heard about the issue of identity theft for reasons other than thievery.

Immigration agents first zeroed in on an identity-theft operation in Worthington, Minn., in the summer, when a man selling Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards for $850 made a deal with an informant . . . Minnesotans who are in frequent contact with illegal immigrants say that selling authentic Puerto Rican documents is just one way to obtain work papers.

Some middle men actually try to buy the identification of homeless people, poor people giving blood at blood banks, or otherwise living on "skid row," Cumiskey said. They then sell their identity to illegal immigrant workers.

Fast forward to the present, when the Times article helps explain that, because of increased scrutiny of identiyy documents, trade in real - stolen - identity docs has increased, and details what that means for both sides of the trade.

With little in common but their shared identity, the two women are unwittingly linked by an illicit trade that is the focus of a new federal crackdown on illegal immigration. Detained in a recent raid on the Iowa plant, the Mexican worker admitted that she had used the California woman's identity to get her job. Now she is in jail on felony charges of identity theft, her trial set to begin in Des Moines on Monday.

Court papers show that the accused did not use stolen documents to loot bank accounts or credit cards, the primary crimes that identity-theft laws seek to attack. Instead, they used the birth certificates and Social Security cards to get jobs.

Still, Matthew C. Allen, the senior investigations official at Immigration and Custom Enforcement, said that 326 Americans had reported financial complications and tax liabilities from having their identities used at Swift. "The victims have suffered very real consequences," Mr. Allen said.

This comparison shows how stories progress over time, how details get flushed out according to what is considered newsworthy. The issues of illegal immigration and identity theft are very much in the news.