Illegal immigration is fueling an identity theft crime spree

ben weingarten
Conservative Opinion

Ben Weingarten

Federalist Senior Contributor; Claremont Institute Fellow
Archive |

Do illegal immigrants pay taxes? How about social security? Some might be surprised to find out that somewhere between 50% and 75% of unauthorized immigrants pay local, state and federal taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But how do undocumented workers find ways to pay legal payroll taxes? Straight Arrow News contributor Ben Weingarten argues that a large swath of illegal immigrants are stealing social security numbers, and explores “why and how illegal aliens are working on the books.”

Well, ironically, part of this dates back to landmark immigration legislation signed by President Reagan originally designed to stem the tide of migrants to America, and make it illegal for them to obtain employment. 

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act instead had the effect of driving illegal aliens seeking work–a primary reason why they come to America–to engage in fraud on their I-9s, by using Social Security Numbers that weren’t their own.

They obtain those numbers in many ways: Some steal, others “borrow” from friends or family, still others buy them from dealers or on the dark web, and finally, many just make them up out of thin air.

Why work on the books fraudulently? Well, the Social Security Administration has previously said that 75% of illegal aliens are using fake or stolen numbers, and there are several good reasons for it: First, they gain access to broader employment opportunities. Second, there’s a hugely powerful incentive to paying taxes. Given their generally low income levels, illegal aliens can receive reimbursements through deductions and exemptions, and rebates via credits–leaving many with tax bills of zero or even as net recipients of government money–that is, our money. 

Their supporters say many pay taxes with fraudulent IDs in the hope that in a future amnesty, this will weigh in their favor by showing good behavior.

Now back to the ESF. The mismatched names there would enable authorities to pursue many of the fraudsters. But the IRS and other agencies who could enforce the law haven’t, and regulations have prevented meaningful information-sharing between and among them.

So to reiterate, illegal aliens engage in rampant fraud to work in America. Authorities could pursue the fraudsters. But they’re sitting on their hands. How could this all be?

Well, this identity fraud is a boon to the U.S. government–or at least some of its most cherished programs.

Up to 2 million illegal aliens have flooded into the U.S. through the Southern border under the sovereignty-eroding Biden administration. 

That historic surge is poised to fuel a hidden crime spree few in Washington seem willing or able to address: The widespread identity theft from forgotten Americans perpetrated by these immigrants to work in the country. 

Some 1-plus million of illegal aliens are using Social Security numbers belonging to someone else – that is stolen or “borrowed” from a relative or acquaintance – or numbers that are fabricated.

I’d say this is a story those in Washington don’t want you to hear, but many of them aren’t even really aware of it, as I found out in co-authoring a report on this subject with my colleague Mark Hemingway for RealClearInvestigations.

The scope and scale of the theft and other identity fraud can be found in part in a government accounting book you’ve probably never heard of: the Social Security Administration’s Earnings Suspense File – or E-S-F.

That file reflects the earnings of employees whose W-2 wage and tax statements have names and Social Security numbers mismatching those on hand with the government. 

The total earnings recorded in that file have increased tenfold from $188.9 billion at the dawn of the millennium to $1.9 trillion in 2021.

Government officials have said a “high proportion” of the file’s growth comes from wages reported by illegal immigrants, and it has swelled alongside their population, which stands at a conservatively estimated 11.5 million today, 7 million of whom are employed.

Now step back for a second. How and why are illegal aliens working on the books?

Well, ironically, part of this dates back to landmark immigration legislation signed by President Reagan originally designed to stem the tide of migrants to America, and make it illegal for them to obtain employment. 

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act instead had the effect of driving illegal aliens seeking work – a primary reason why they come to America – to engage in fraud on their I-9s, by using Social Security Numbers that weren’t their own.

They obtain those numbers in many ways: Some steal, others “borrow” from friends or family, still others buy them from dealers or on the dark web, and finally, many just make them up out of thin air.

Why work on the books fraudulently? Well, the Social Security Administration has previously said that 75% of illegal aliens are using fake or stolen numbers, and there are several good reasons for it: First, they gain access to broader employment opportunities. Second, there’s a hugely powerful incentive to paying taxes. Given their generally low income levels, illegal aliens can receive reimbursements through deductions and exemptions, and rebates via credits – leaving many with tax bills of zero or even as net recipients of government money – that is, our money. 

Their supporters say many pay taxes with fraudulent IDs in the hope that in a future amnesty, this will weigh in their favor by showing good behavior.

Now back to the ESF. The mismatched names there would enable authorities to pursue many of the fraudsters. But the IRS and other agencies who could enforce the law haven’t, and regulations have prevented meaningful information-sharing between and among them.

So to reiterate, illegal aliens engage in rampant fraud to work in America. Authorities could pursue the fraudsters. But they’re sitting on their hands. How could this all be?

Well, this identity-fraud is a boon to the U.S. government – or at least some of its most cherished programs.

[INSERT JAYAPAL CLIP]

A 2017 study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform found that the feds collects $22 billion annually in taxes from illegal aliens, with the bulk going toward Social Security – over $12.5 billion, and Medicare nearly $6 billion – programs they’re not supposed to be able to draw from. 

So the fraud has the effect of bolstering financially shaky federal programs. As Social Security Administration Chief Actuary Stephen Goss told CNN in 2014, without “undocumented immigrants paying into the system, Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.” 

With Washington willing to tolerate illegal immigration on a bipartisan basis for decades – driven by the multicultural left and businesses interests in cheap labor – authorities have focused on the money pouring into the U.S. Treasury while ignoring the costs. 

What are those costs besides the assault on law by those who enter the country illegally by engaging in identity fraud – and the further cost of not bringing to justice those breaking the law, or those knowingly employing them?

There’s the significant strain illegal immigrant households place on public finances, which FAIR and others estimate vastly outweigh their tax contributions, their impacts on crime and the job market – and on the victims of identity theft.

Reports dating back over a decade – because no one is doing any reporting on this – cite hundreds of thousands of Americans as unknowingly “sharing” their Social Security numbers with illegal immigrants. 

They may face tax bills for income they didn’t earn or depleted benefits. 

Worse, some may be burdened with bad credit histories and criminal records inaccurately attributed to them. 

In fact, there are children born into identity theft. 

Here are some examples of what kids have faced:

  • A 3-year-old was issued a SSN already in use for years by a twice-arrested illegal alien, impacting the child’s credit, medical, and work history.
  • A 9-year-old was denied Medicaid due to wages reported on his SSN.
  • A 13-year-old was denied as a dependent on her family’s return for supposedly making too much money.

Other horror stories include the likes of Marcus Calvillo, a father of six from Grand Prairie, Texas. His life was upended after an illegal immigrant was first arrested on drug trafficking charges in Kansas in 1993, then a slew of other ones, including a sex crime involving a minor, and after twice failing to register as a sex offender.

The criminal activity was recorded under Calvillo’s stolen identity – Neave-Ceniceros’ fingerprints were linked to Calvillo’s name in national criminal databases – making it difficult for the innocent Calvillo to pass the cursory background checks required to hold a job and support his family.

At one point, Calvillo was working as a cable installer when he was abruptly fired. When asked why, he told the Associated Press he was only told, “You know what you did.” Calvillo also had disputes with the IRS over taxes on wages that had been paid to Neave-Ceniceros but recorded under his name.

Only after years of struggling, in 2016, the perp was convicted on a series of charges including aggravated identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number. 

Despite wreaking havoc on Calvillo’s life, the convict was only sentenced to one year and a day in prison for his crimes.

Linda Trevino, a Chicago suburb resident, was another victim, one of the hundreds of thousands NBC News cited in a report from over a decade ago – when the media still covered these stories. She had been denied a job at a local Target because someone using her SSN also worked there. Her number, in fact, had been used to obtain employment at 37 other employers, leaving her haunted by the IRS with letters asking her to pay others’ taxes, and facing creditors.

The overall impact on American citizens is largely unknown because federal, state, and local governments as well as financial institutions have generally failed to notify them even when fraud is suspected.

The relevant agencies were largely non-responsive to our requests for updated figures on the size, scope, and extent of the fraud. Lawmakers last gave voice to victims based on my research over a decade ago, when Congress held a hearing spotlighting the defrauded. Legislation aimed at reducing Social Security number fraud in employment rarely makes it to a vote, and many lawmakers we contacted indicated only a passing knowledge about this issue.

The only thing experts do seem to agree on is that the problem is only likely to get substantially worse as more illegal immigrants cross the border and seek work.

No one here is standing with the American people out of greed, politics, ignorance, and disrespect demonstrated for the law in our betters’ unwillingness to enforce it.

comment bubbles Tell us what you think!


All comments will be moderated for relevancy and civility.

Comments


Comments are still pending approval. Watch the report to add your own thoughts above.

Related Reports