Screening Immigrants for Fraud: A Tale of Two Enforcements

Posted: May 09, 2014 2:08 PM

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the May issue of Townhall Magazine.

The press release from the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to be good news. Their agents had broken up a plot to fraudulently bring workers to America.

But if you looked a little deeper, as I did, I found that a couple of U.S.-based crooks had created a totally fraudulent university, and had, for years, been using the phony institution to bring a total of 24 illegal aliens to the United States. No one in our government noticed that the place simply did not exist!

Time and again decision-making employees in the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security had rubber-stamped applications that allowed the aliens to enter the country. And in each and every case, all three of the agencies had erred. Since this happened 24 times and (24 x 3 = 72) that produced a box score of: United States, 0 hits and 72 errors.

Sometimes our government notices such white-collar crime, but all too often it does not; and usually, when it does, it’s years and years between the time of the violation and the corrective action.

Contrast the multiple errors in the U.S. case to what happened in the United Kingdom recently. British authorities learned that five illegal aliens (all men) from Pakistan were about to have fraudulent marriages with five legal residents (all women) that would give the Pakistanis instant legal status.

The Home Office agents swooped down on the group wedding, stopped it before it happened, and deported at least four of the five illegals. Score: United Kingdom: 5 hits, and 0 errors.

Clearly the U.K. won that one!

These, of course, are anecdotes but after decades of studying immigration policy, mostly in the U.S., but often overseas, I can say that these scores are pretty typical of the levels of interior immigration enforcement in the two nations.

Our Border Patrol does a pretty good job of discouraging one kind of illegal immigration—that of “entering without inspection.” But when it comes to rooting out people in the nation illegally, most of whom had arrived earlier with tourist visas, the Brits are much better than we are.

Let’s look at the two cases in more depth.

The Phony University. There is a temporary worker program in the U.S. called H-1B (for the provision in the immigration law). An alien needs to have a college degree to qualify, and to have a U.S. employer who can convince the U.S. Department of Labor that such a worker is needed in the U.S. economy (something Labor agrees to far too often.) Though there is a numerical limit on the program generally, there is none for H-1Bs coming to the U.S. to work at a university. There are other (mild) restrictions; work as a nurse does not qualify for an H-1B visa, though Homeland Security is currently chipping away at this restriction.

Meanwhile, there are nursing homes that are eager to hire foreign nurses at bargain rates.

Two bright crooks in the Denver area decided to create Adam University; they got formal papers from the relaxed folks in Colorado’s Department of Education, but never opened the institution. They were probably playing on the fact that there is an Adams State University.

Then they made use of the demand for low-paid nurses; the fact that nurses could not get H-1B visas; the parallel facts that professors of nursing could get those visas; and that many Filipino nurses wanted to work in the U.S. The crooks then processed the H-1B visas, got the nurses to the States, and told them that they would get work, but not at the wages shown on the Labor Department applications; if they objected, they were told they would be deported, so most of them accepted the low-paid jobs, and kept paying bribes to the promoters to prevent deportation.

All of this could have been avoided if on one of the 72 times the applications were reviewed someone did something as simple as to check Adam University against the list of nursing schools, or operative universities. It never happened.

The Phony Marriages. The Home Office (the government unit that handles immigration) apparently has worked out arrangements with wedding license agencies, to inform them of questionable applications. Further, wedding licenses appear, in the U.K., to state the time and the place of the forthcoming marriage.

In this case the U.K. investigators knew all about the planned “marriages” and were pro-active.

I have been paying close attention to immigration-fraud- weddings in the U.S. for several years and have never heard of a similar, alert move by our agents.

Both nations suffer from illegal immigration but the Brits are simply more motivated to do something about it than our officials. It’s as simple as that.

David S. North is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank; he has been examining immigration policy, here and abroad, for decades.