How Barack Obama’s DACA Encouraged Identity Theft by Illegal Aliens
As the dilemma of what to do about the illegal alien participants in former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has dominated the immigration debate for more than a year, a new investigation has revealed the lengths to which the previous chief executive facilitated the program.
They did so, among other things, by ignoring widespread identity theft by illegal aliens and keeping Americans in the dark about being cut off from their Social Security benefits. The findings show how DACA is not the act of benevolence that is portrayed in the media, and has actually caused great harm to American citizens. It simply has to end.
Diving deep into the beginnings of DACA, Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple and former assistant commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), details how the Obama Homeland Security Department (DHS) kept the use of stolen Social Security numbers from being counted against would-be DACA applicants.
As he shows, the promise to forgive the crime, one that is pervasive among illegal aliens, was consciously designed to incentivize DACA-eligible “dreamers” to “come out of the shadows” and apply for the program.
In addition to being a blatant violation of the Constitution and our immigration laws, DACA can now be seen as the product of an administration that refused to enforce the law for political reasons, and at the expense of honest citizens.
Further, Ting reveals how the DHS omission was supplemented by the Social Security Administration (SSA), which halted a program started in the 1970s from communicating to working people when there is a mismatch between the information submitted in employer wage reports and what is in the agency’s database.
The notices, which had formerly been posted to millions of people across the country and appear to be mandatory under SSA regulations, are important because when a submitted name/SSN combination isn’t lining up in SSA’s system, the citizen or legal resident’s number appears illegitimate, which can lead to their Social Security benefits being frozen.
This can happen, for instance, if there’s a typographical error on an employer’s W-2 wage report or when a newly-married woman changes her name but forgets to report it. According to SSA records, hundreds of thousands of legitimate SSN users had been responding to such letters annually, requesting help from the SSA to ensure they received the benefits they are entitled to.
Over the years, however, the vast majority of letter recipients have been illegal aliens. As Ting writes, before DACA, the SSA had estimated that three out of every four illegal aliens possessed a Social Security number, which had either been stolen from an American citizen or legal resident or simply made up.
Although almost never reported on, when illegal aliens steal a Social Security number, the consequences can be very serious for the legitimate user. On top of receiving IRS letters and audits accusing them of having income they are not claiming or having their benefits blocked, reconciling a compromised identifier is estimated to cost thousands of dollars and take years of effort.
This doesn’t matter to most illegal aliens, given the benefits involved, including the documentation they need to obtain work in the U.S. where wages, compared to Mexico at least, are 10 times higher.
The pervasiveness of this crime was apparently lost on the Obama DHS, however. When DACA was first implemented, DHS did nothing to allay the uncertainty and fear among applicants about whether the discovery of identity fraud would trigger a denial or be used to prosecute them.
As Ting shows, after the DACA rollout, DHS jumped to correct the “mistake,” rushing out a statement after the program’s announcement assuring potential applicants that they were “not interested in using [DACA] as a way to identify one-off cases where some individual may have violated some federal law in an employment relationship.” Just like their initial immigration violation, DACA aliens’ Social Security number fraud was to be swept under the rug.
Giving DACA applicants the assurance they needed to apply was further aided by the SSA. Just eight days after DACA was implemented, its letter-mailing program was halted. With applicants receiving letters from the SSA flagging them as possible identity thieves, they would likely be far less confident in approaching the government for DACA benefits.
Moreover, for the SSA’s program to persist alongside DACA would have simply looked absurd. On the one hand, DACA aliens would be told they had been flagged for a serious criminal violation, while on the other, they were being called “dreamers” and told they needn’t worry about the violations.
Further, as Ting found, the suspension of the SSA letters wasn’t made public until late 2016, a full four years after the program was terminated. Publicly announcing the suspension just days after DACA went into effect no doubt would have created suspicion from an American public already skeptical of Obama’s unprecedented amnesty push.
That Obama would go to such lengths to ensure the successful rollout of DACA is unsurprising, considering the dubious legal justifications of the program to begin with, as well as other extreme non-enforcement measures taken throughout his tenure.
Those dubious justifications included the “prioritization” of removals only for serious criminal aliens, and the legal attacks on state and local governments that sought to cooperate with the federal government’s immigration enforcement efforts.
But the direct harm inflicted on the American public, the details of which will hopefully come to the surface as this story unfolds, perhaps puts it above other damaging aspects of Obama’s immigration legacy.
For now, while we at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) are suing SSA and DHS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records concerning decisions made by the DACA program’s architects. Congress, the relevant Inspectors General, and the Department of Justice should to investigate the matter fully.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, How Barack Obama’s DACA Encouraged Identity Theft by Illegal Aliens, PoliZette, April 15, 2018