This week’s roundup of illegal immigrants caught working in the U.S. with fraudulent identifications – the largest single such work-site action ever – raises questions about a link between illegal immigration and the growing problem of identity theft, says the Christian Science Monitor. Raids Tuesday at six meat-processing plants owned by Swift & Co. in six states resulted in the arrests of 1,282 people, and 65 also charged with identity theft or other criminal charges. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents hope that some of the newly arrested workers will lead law officers to “document rings” that provided the stolen identities. The 10-month operation began in February, when ICE learned that “large numbers” of undocumented immigrants might be using Social Security numbers assigned to U.S. citizens.
The fraudulent document business has long made it hard for officials to crack down on companies for knowingly hiring illegal workers. As ICE agents conducted Tuesday’s raids at the Swift plants, a task force in Arizona made up of state, federal, and local law- enforcement officials arrested 12 suspects and seized fake drivers’ licenses, resident alien cards, Social Security cards, and vehicle titles. The Phoenix area, a major immigrant-smuggling hub, has become a place where the false ID business is thriving. Officials estimate that 1,000 to 1,500 “coyotes,” or smugglers, stash thousands of undocumented immigrants in drop houses throughout the area, where they wait until false identification and transportation can be arranged to places as far away as Seattle and Miami.