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Our Politicians Are Broken, Not Our Immigration System

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it," President Barack Obama declared in a speech last November.

"Our nation's immigration system is broken, and I think we need to work together to fix it," House Speaker John Boehner said the same month.


They are wrong. Some laws that regulate legal immigration may need adjustment. But our immigration system is not broken. The politicians charged with enforcing it are.

It is illegal to sneak across the border. It is illegal to overstay a visa. It is illegal work in the United States unless you are a citizen, a legal permanent resident or have a visa that authorizes you to work.

It is illegal to use a false or stolen Social Security Number, and it is illegal to use fraudulent documents to obtain work.

But the laws that immigrants here illegally routinely violate are not routinely enforced -- even in Washington, D.C., and its immediate surroundings.

In Washington, D.C., in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of construction workers were "unauthorized immigrants." Next door in Maryland, 26 percent of construction workers were "unauthorized immigrants." Across the river in Virginia, 19 percent of construction workers were "unauthorized immigrants."

Similarly, 12 percent of the service workers in D.C., 13 percent in Maryland, and 10 percent in Virginia were "unauthorized immigrants."

Construction companies and service-based employers in and around Washington, D.C., hire immigrants here illegally with impunity.


These workers do not live in the shadows. They live in the shadow of the Capitol and the White House.

They sell burgers to -- and build homes for -- White House aides, congressional staffers and Department of Homeland Security officials.

According to Pew, there were about 20,000 immigrants here illegally living within Washington, D.C., in 2012; 275,000 living in Virginia; and 250,000 in Maryland.

These hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally live in D.C. and its bordering states for the same reason millions of immigrants here illegally live in California and Texas: Our federal political elite has no intention of enforcing the immigration laws.

The government already has the means at hand to find the employers who hire these immigrants here illegally and enforce the employment and immigration laws at their facilities.

As this column has noted before, when the Social Security Administration gets a W-2 on which the Social Security Number and name do not match -- and efforts by the Social Security Administration to discover the Social Security Number holder to whom the W-2 belongs fail -- SSA records the earnings reported on the W-2 in what it calls its Earnings Suspense File.

For at least 15 years, the government has known that these "no-match" W-2s are often filed on behalf of immigrants here illegally using fake or stolen Social Security Numbers.


On Feb. 7, 2000, the inspector general of the Social Security Administration filed a report on these no-match W-2s.

"SSA officials informed us that they suspect illegal aliens account for a major portion of suspended wage items, but the ESF [Earnings Suspense File] Tactical Plan does not adequately address the problem," said the inspector general -- in that 15-year-old report.

"SSA suspects that employers in certain high turnover industries (bars and restaurants, services, and agriculture) compound the problem because they may knowingly hire illegal aliens with fraudulent identification and are able to do so because there are no penalties imposed for their actions," the inspector general warned -- a decade and a half ago.

"Consequently, those employers who knowingly accept fraudulent documentation are free to conduct business as usual without regard to the disruption and harm caused to SSA's customers and to unknowing individuals whose identities are falsely used," said the IG.

"SSA has the capability to provide the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] with valuable leads to identify employers who continually hire illegal aliens" the inspector general said. "The Agency included a project to collaborate with the INS in its December 1997 version of the ESF Tactical Plan."


But, the inspector general said: "Because of privacy and disclosure limitations, the Agency determined it could not share such information with the INS, according to SSA officials."

If Congress and the president actually wanted to enforce the immigration law now, they could repair this claimed defect in the law by enacting a simple mandate. It would say: SSA and IRS must hand over to DHS each year a list of every employer who filed 50 or more no-match W-2 for the previous tax year. DHS must investigate to see if these employers are hiring immigrants here illegally.

If our politicians were not broken, the Republicans who controlled Congress in 2000 would have sent that repair to President Clinton that year and he would have signed it into law.

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