In previous blog posts, we have touched upon some of the consequences triggered by the use of fake social security numbers or driver licenses by undocumented immigrants. Although the two credentials are entirely different from one another, they are both highly coveted and used by those without status to gain jobs, keep jobs, and carry as a form of identification. While there is always a small contingent of people who will procure and use these documents out of self interest and for unscrupulous purposes (ie., identity fraud, hindering apprehension, to name a few) the vast majority of people with immigration problems who use them are merely trying to survive and support their families. As our society and governmental institutions become increasingly document reliant and begin making basic privileges contingent on those documents, the fringes of the underground economy continue to shrink, pressuring more and more desperate immigrants beyond its outskirts.
The consequence, unfortunately, is that growing numbers of illegal people feel constrained to use fake social security numbers or apply for licenses that they are not eligible for. In some cases, for instance, some undocumented aliens have followed others and flocked to jurisdictions that are not as scrupulous in checking residency for driver licenses. So, in other words, a person who lives in New Jersey might apply for a license in a different state that does grant licenses to undocumented immigrants; the problem is, however, that many of those same states also have a residency requirement requiring the person to live in that state. Our hypothetical New Jersey resident is arguably breaking the law by misrepresenting his/her residency in that state.
Similar problems can arise in the context of a false social security number. A person may try to make up a random number or worse, unintentionally end up using someone else’s number (without realizing it) to apply for a job. Such conduct may implicate and constitute violations of federal laws, some being criminal, which are obviously detrimental to prospective status.
While these issues have always complicated affirmative green card cases, they haven’t historically been treated by the government as priority cases for removal. This is not to say at all that the government necessarily turned a blind eye to these cases, but by and large-at least during the last few administrations-ICE was arguably focused more on felony convictions. Now, this may all change. With the issuance of President Trump’s Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in The Interior of the United States”, DHS is directed to reorganize and re-prioritize its enforcement objectives. Section 5d, in particular, expands the contours of targeted aliens to include those who “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency.” The language is fairly unambiguous and a plain reading would seem to encompass fraudulent conduct in connection with driver licenses and/or social security numbers, since both the DMV (or in some states, “MVC”) and the Social Security Office are governmental agencies. It is likely that in the next few years, if not months, the government will begin cracking down on a new class of “criminals,” hewing to President’s Trump agenda of ousting the eleven million people living here without status. Certainly, this is no condonation of fraudulent conduct. It is what it is, but sadly, many working class mothers, fathers, and “dreamers” (loosely speaking, young people who came here at an early age and fell out of status through no fault of their own) will be caught up in this new campaign of indiscriminate prosecution. For those who are tempted or considering using or applying for a government document under false pretenses, they would be well advised to not to. Aside from the inherently wrong and potentially criminal nature of such conduct, the immigration consequences may turn out to be more severe than anticipated.
The foregoing is general information only and not intended as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice in lieu of speaking with a qualified attorney.