By Representative Elton Gallegly
Illegal immigrant workers not only take jobs from American workers, they also damage the future of millions of American children through fraud and identity theft.
It's an issue that will not go away if our southern border is sealed or Mexican citizens decide the United States is no longer a desirable destination, as a recent Pew Hispanic Center study suggests. Forty percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays who come from around the world. That percentage will only rise if the recent Pew Hispanic Center study is correct. Illegal immigrants need fraudulent documents to obtain employment no matter where they come from.
Children are particularly susceptible to identity theft.
"The use of fraudulent documents for employment authorization and child identity theft go hand-in-hand because adults can use children's Social Security numbers for years without being detected," Ronald Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, testified at a congressional hearing I chaired this month. "Document fraud, therefore, is not a victimless crime and the children whose Social Security numbers are used for employment purposes suffer very real and serious harm."
Jennifer Andrushko's 3-year-old son is one of those victims. His identity was taken by an illegal immigrant, who then used it to fraudulently obtain work and run up unpaid medical bills.
"I cannot express how ridiculous it is that my son's Social Security number has been used for care at an OB/GYN's office or how frightening it is to know that my son's medical history has been blatantly corrupted, which could have serious, life-threatening impacts on my son's life and medical care," Andrushko said in her testimony.
When Andrushko's son was born, the Social Security Administration issued him a Social Security number that had already been used for years by an illegal immigrant. His credit, his medical history, his work history and his potential for being denied future benefits were immediately corrupted.
The illegal immigrant who created the fake Social Security number was arrested and placed on an immigration hold and yet released -- twice. She runs free while the Andrushko boy's Social Security number is tied to a criminal record.
Andrushko is not an isolated case. The SSA Actuary estimates that 75 percent of illegal immigrants obtain and use a fraudulent Social Security number.
The millions of victims include:
A 9-year-old boy who was denied Medicaid because wages were reported on his Social Security number.
A 13-year-old girl who was denied as a dependent on her family's tax return because she supposedly made too much money.
An 11-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl whose Social Security numbers are being used by multiple people for work authorization.
A Carnegie Mellon CyLab survey discovered that children are 51 times more likely to be victims of identity theft than adults, Mortensen noted.
"Children's Social Security numbers are especially valuable for employment purposes. Children do not use their Social Security numbers for employment, credit or other purposes, thus the illegal use of their Social Security numbers can go unnoticed for many years," he said.
The SSA is no help to victims of Social Security fraud. Neither are the IRS or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Andrushko family has been battling to clear their son's history since 2009, with no end in sight.
"Words cannot adequately express the hurt, anger, frustration and betrayal that we have felt in battling this," Mrs. Andrushko said.
Members of Congress are working on ways to help the Andrushko family and others who have already become victims. We also need to find ways to keep other children from falling victim to identity theft.
One quick and easy way is to make E-Verify mandatory. E-Verify is an easy-to-use, accurate, computer-based employee verification system that ensures employees have a legal right to work in the United States. Nearly 360,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and more than 2,700 new businesses sign up every week. It matches a person's name, Social Security number and date of birth against Homeland Security Department and SSA databases. If the three fail to match, the person is denied employment.
As Mortensen noted:
"E-Verify can help dramatically reduce job-related, child identity theft because an employer using the system in good faith cannot legally enter a child's date of birth when the employee is obviously an adult."
E-Verify would open millions of jobs for American workers and protect millions of children from identity theft. It helps solve two major problems facing American families today. The time to make it mandatory is now.
Rep. Gallegly (R-Calif.) is chairman of the Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee.