fraud

Kingpin behind Ice Breaker 2 drug enterprise pleads guilty

A man who investigators described as the kingpin of the county’s second-largest known drug operation has entered a plea of guilty as part of a negotiated agreement with the prosecution.

Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez, 37, of Lebanon, pleaded guilty in Benton County Circuit Court on Monday to one count of racketeering and to five counts related to dealing methamphetamine. Dismissed in exchange were remaining charges of racketeering and of dealing meth, cocaine and heroin.

His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Prosecutors from the Benton County District Attorney’s Office and the Oregon Department of Justice, and Gonzalez-Martinez’s defense will argue his potential sentence before Circuit Court Judge Matthew Donohue.

Gonzalez-Martinez and 26 others were arrested in March 2012 after area law-enforcement agencies served more than three dozen search warrants as part of a drug bust, which they dubbed Icebreaker 2.

His brother — Abel Gonzalez-Martinez — and Juventino Santibanez-Castro, who investigators identified as the other top men in the operation, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison last December.

The enterprise involved bringing in “substantial amounts” of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico for distribution throughout Oregon, according to court testimony.

The raid came almost five years to the day after another huge drug bust, dubbed Ice Breaker, which remains the largest criminal sweep in Benton County’s history. Some of the people arrested in the Ice Breaker 2 raid had ties to the first Ice Breaker case, authorities said.
 

New immigration bill has more waivers and exceptions per page than Obamacare

“The revised [Gang of Eight] 867-page bill contains multiple changes from the first 844-page version, released April 18, but Democrats have not announced any delay to the committee review of the complex bill that begins next week. The bill includes roughly 1.14 waivers or exemptions per page. By comparison, the 2,409-page Obamacare law includes 0.78 waivers and exemptions per page… NumbersUSA has estimated that 33 million extra people would be able to apply to live in the United States because of the immigration bill, under the terms of the original draft.”

The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” has released a new version of the immigration bill that contains 999 references to waivers, exemptions and political discretion.

The revised 867-page bill contains multiple changes from the first 844-page version, released April 18, but Democrats have not announced any delay to the committee review of the complex bill that begins next week.

The bill includes roughly 1.14 waivers or exemptions per page. By comparison, the 2,409-page Obamacare law includes 0.78 waivers and exemptions per page.

The Obamacare law contains 1,882 mentions of “unless,” “notwithstanding,” “except,” “exempt,” “waivers,” “discretion” and “may.” “Waiver” is mention 209 times in the law.

The new draft of the immigration bill — which will allow officials much control over the supply and cost of labor needed by American companies — has 85 mentions of “unless,” 150 uses of “except,” 18 inclusions of “exempt,” 92 mentions of “waiver,” 42 offers of “discretion,” 47 use of “notwithstanding” and 618 uses of “may” in the 876-page bill.

The Daily Caller subtracted mentions of “may not” from both bills’ final tally of exemptions and options.

President Barack Obama backs the bill, and told reporters Tuesday that it “is going to be a historic achievement.”

The bill has been crafted by eight senators, led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranked Democrat in the Senate.

Alex Conant, a spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, the leading GOP supporter of the pending immigration bill, did not respond when asked by email if Rubio will ask for a delay to let his fellow GOP senators and their staffers read and understand the new version.

Since January, Rubio has declared that senators and outside opponents of the bill will have plenty of time to review the bill’s contents and to urge changes.

“Senator Rubio has said from the outset that we will not rush this process, and that begins at the committee level,” Conant told The Washington Post April 12.

“The Judiciary Committee must have plenty of time to debate and improve the bipartisan group’s proposal. … We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become,” Conant said.

“We don’t see anything really coming to the [Senate] floor before, at the earliest, sometime in May,” McCain told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren April 11.

“We want to give it plenty of time.”

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for the Judiciary Committee, declined Wednesday to say if the Democratic-run committee would delay the bill’s review.

Instead, she forwarded April 25 remarks by committee chairman Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.

“When we next meet, the bill will have been publicly available for three weeks. So before we vote on any aspect of it we and the public will have had the bill for some time,” he said.  The bill is extremely complex.

For example, there are 47 mentions of the term “notwithstanding,” each of which creates an exemption to the bill or to existing law. On page 339 of the new bill, a paragraph requires the amnesty be extended to illegals who voluntarily left the United States or were deported.

“Notwithstanding section 212(a)(9) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)), an alien’s application for an immigrant visa shall be considered if the alien was excluded, deported, removed, or departed voluntarily before the date of the enactment of this Act,” says the paragraph.

Another section allows the families of deported illegals, including family members who never visited the United States, to apply for the amnesty.

The limited-immigration group NumbersUSA has estimated that 33 million extra people would be able to apply to live in the United States because of the immigration bill, under the terms of the original draft.

The group — which wants to reduce the current annual immigration rate of 1 million — has not released an estimate of how many people could arrive under the new draft.

Advocates for the bill have highlighted at least one change in the new version, which is the addition of language that is said to plug a gap created by the bill’s immediate elimination of the current E-Verify system and its projected creation of a new E-Verify system. E-verify is used by employers to gauge whether a job applicant has the right to work in the United States.

 

 

Ten arrested in Salem food stamp fraud case

A Salem grocery store owner and nine of his customers were arrested in connection with a food stamp scheme that cost Oregon’s nutrition assistance program at least $120,000 during the past year, according to Salem Police.

Officers started watching Pantiaguas Produce on 1805 Silverton Road NE after a customer called to complain that an acquaintance stole the money off his Oregon Trail Card.

“He was upset because he said ‘I am trying to feed my family off that card,’ ” Lt. Steve Birr said.

When officers investigated the theft, they discovered a troubling pattern.

Birr said customers would enter the store with their Electronic Benefits Transfer cards and owner Holver Paniagua-Millan, 22, would do one of two things.

“If you had $160 on your card, he would swipe it for $160 and pay you $80 and keep $80 for himself,” Birr said. “Or he would keep the card, and go out and buy meat for his taco stand and then pay you 50 cents on the dollar for what he ran up on your card.”

Paniagua-Millan was earning about $5,000 per month from the scheme, Birr said.

About 800,000 Oregonians used EBT cards in 2012, said Gene Evans, spokesman for Oregon’s Department of Health Services.

The cards allow people to purchase only certain foods and household products from participating retailers. The state’s fraud team investigates individuals who either falsify information to obtain the cards or try to use them in an unauthorized manner.

On March 7, officers and agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to start making arrests. During a three-hour stakeout, they arrested Paniagua-Millan and four of his customers. Paniagua-Millan was charged with racketeering, five counts of computer fraud, five counts of food stamp fraud and three counts of identity theft.

Four other people were arrested later.

Retailer fraud — which is alleged in this case — is handled by the federal government.

“We make sure that people who are caught committing fraud are disqualified from the program,” Evans said.

Whether that disqualification is permanent or temporary depends on how much money a person stole and for how long a period of time he or she was stealing.

He pointed out that in 2012, less than one percent of food stamp recipients — about 4,000 cases — were caught using their cards fraudulently.

“We want to make sure that the people who are getting the benefits are the people who need them,” Evans said. “Incidents like this hurt the credibility of the program and people who need it.”

As for Pantiaguas Produce, Evans said the Department of Agriculture would decide whether to suspend the store’s ability to accept EBT payments.

“I can’t speak to what the outcome will be, but this wasn’t inadvertent,” Evans said. “This looks like intentional activity.”

Birr said there could be more arrests in this case as well as new investigations into other retailers.

“We are probably going to pursue more investigations with the Agricultural Department,” Birr said. “I think this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Paniagua-Millan

Other arrests

The following people were arrested in addition to Paniagua-Millan:
• Meleda Cook, 54, of Keizer faces charges of two counts of food stamp fraud
• Heidi Timberman, 40, of Salem faces charges of food stamp fraud, possession of heroin and a parole violation
• Joseph Sieg, 49, of Salem faces a charge of food stamp fraud
• Mary Vaughn, 55, of Salem faces a charge of food stamp fraud
• Bob Ullom, 51, of Salem faces charges of two counts of food stamp fraud and two counts of identity theft
• Craig Clendennen, 47, of Salem faces charges of food stamp fraud and identity theft
• Amber Roseander, 19, of Salem faces charges of food stamp fraud, attempted food stamp fraud and identity theft
• Ronnie Crawley, 32, of Salem faces a charge of food stamp fraud
• Melanie Farmer, 39, of Keizer faces a charge of food stamp fraud

astaver@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6610, or follow on Twitter @AnnaStaver

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20130326/NEWS/303260027/Ten-arrested-Salem-food-stamp-fraud-case

MCCF Inmate Roster
(Click inmate's Name to go to VINE for that inmate)
 

26-MAR-2013 07:00 Inmate Roster
 

MCCF

1. PANIAGUA-MILLAN, HOLVER

PANIAGUA-MILLAN, HOLVER SID: 19965451 LODGED

Lodged: 03/07/2013 19:30 Max: DoB: 06/16/1990

Arrest: SMP Type: PROBABL Docket: 13C41494 Hold Auth: MARION

Charge Bail Status Next Court Release

1 RACKETEER 170000 PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

2 COMP FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

3 STAM FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

4 COMP FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

5 STAM FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

6 COMP FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

7 STAM FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

8 ID THEFT CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

9 ID THEFT CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

10 COMP FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

11 STAM FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

12 COMP FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

13 STAM FRAUD CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

14 ID THEFT CO BAIL PRETRIA04/08/2013 08:30 CIRCUI

Arrest: ICE Type: OTHER Docket: Hold Auth: ICE

Charge Bail Status Next Court Release

1 ICE HOLD NO BAIL ICE


 

 

Gov't acknowledges thousands released from jails

The Obama administration reversed itself Thursday, acknowledging to Congress that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails due to budget constraints during three weeks in February.

The director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, said his agency had released 2,228 illegal immigrants during that period for what he called "solely budgetary reasons." The figure was significantly higher than the "few hundred" immigrants the Obama administration had publicly acknowledged were released under the budget-savings process. He testified during a hearing by a House appropriations subcommittee.

Morton told lawmakers Thursday that the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He said the pending automatic cuts known as sequestration was "driving in the background."

"We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us," Morton told lawmakers. "This was not a White House call. I take full responsibility."

The Associated Press, citing internal budget documents, reported exclusively on March 1 that the administration had released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants since Feb. 15 and planned to release 3,000 more in March due to looming budget cuts, but Napolitano said days later that the AP's report was "not really accurate" and that the story had developed "its own mythology."

"Several hundred are related to sequester, but it wasn't thousands," Napolitano said March 4 at a Politico-sponsored event.

On March 5, the House Judiciary Committee publicly released an internal ICE document that it said described the agency's plans to release thousands of illegal immigrants before March 31. The document was among those reviewed by the AP for its story days earlier.

The immigrants who were released still eventually face deportation and are required to appear for upcoming court hearings. But they are no longer confined in immigration jails, where advocacy experts say they cost about $164 per day per person. Immigrants who are granted supervised release _ with conditions that can include mandatory check-ins, home visits and GPS devices _ cost the government from 30 cents to $14 a day, according to the National Immigration Forum, a group that advocates on behalf of immigrants.

Morton said Thursday that among the immigrants released were 10 people considered the highest level of offender. Morton said that although that category of offender can include people convicted of aggravated felonies, many of the people released were facing financial crimes. Four of the most serious offenders have been put back in detention. Other people released include immigrants who had faced multiple drunken driving offenses, misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, Morton said.

After the administration challenged the AP's reporting, ICE said it didn't know how many people had been released for budget reasons but would review its records.

David Cross explains that selective information leads to a misleading report

David Olen Cross tracks and reports criminal alien activity throughout the state and has done so for years.   It's not surprising that he holds accountable those that would pick and choose which information to include in the recent Oregon Commission on Public Safety’s final report to the governor, submitted on December 17, 2012.

How convenient to exclude the most damning information when the Governor's agenda is clear to anyone who cares to look at it.

Read Cross's Guest Opinion, published at registerguard.com
 

Howard agrees to proposed $1.3M settlement

Those eligible for part of a proposed, $1.3 million class-action settlement alleging discriminatory hiring practices at Howard Industries’ Laurel transformer plant have until Nov. 29 to opt out of their piece of the settlement.

Howard entered into a settlement agreement without admitting any wrongdoing to avoid protracted litigation in a lawsuit filed by four plaintiffs alleging the business held discriminatory hiring practices toward non-Hispanics.

U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett entered an order Oct. 5 outlining the processes involved in distributing the settlement. The settlement will only be approved following a Jan. 23 final fairness hearing before Starrett.

Veronica Cook, Yolanda Phelps, Charlyn Dozier and Seleatha McGee, all African-American, said in their Feb. 2011 lawsuit they repeatedly applied for employment at Howard Industries, but were only hired after the company was raided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Aug. 25, 2008, 592 illegal workers were arrested at the electrical transformer plant in Laurel in the biggest workplace immigration raid in U.S. history.

The lawsuit was filed one day after Howard Industries Inc. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine for violating immigration laws.

Howard Industries former human resources manager, Jose Humberto Gonzalez, pleaded guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy and admitted he hired hundreds of people whom he knew were in the country illegally.

Gonzalez was sentenced in 2011 to five months of house arrest, placed on five years probation and fined $4,000.

Howard will put the settlement funding into an account designated by a jointly selected claims administrator.

“The claims administrator will accept claims from purported members of the class and will determine whether those individuals are, in fact, class members and, if so, whether they are entitled to a payment under terms of the settlement agreement,” Starrett wrote in his order.

The administrator will divide class members into four categories to include:

• Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit

• Those who applied between Jan. 1, 2003 and Aug. 25, 2008 who were not hired or offered employment, and records show no valid, non-discriminatory reason for non hire, but were hired after Aug. 25, 2008

• Those who applied during the same period and were not hired while Howard’s records show no valid, non-discriminatory reason

• Those who applied during the same period and were not hired, but records do not affirmatively show the claimant was qualified.

Howard will also offer 70 of the class members a position within nine months of the settlement to be selected by lottery.

Following the entry of Starrett’s order, the administrator began mailing notice of the class action and proposed settlement to eligible class members.
 

Krastev shipped to Bulgaria

The former Oregon Liquor Control Commission agent who spent nearly 20 years residing illegally in the United States under a false identity has been deported.

Doitchin Krastev, known as Jason Evers during his time in Bend with the OLCC, was sent back to his native Bulgaria on July 31, according to Andrew Munoz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Munoz said Krastev traveled on a commercial flight, and was escorted by Enforcement and Removal Operations officers.

According to federal court records, Krastev began using the name Jason Evers in 1996, when he applied for and received a Social Security number using the name and birth date of an Ohio boy who had been kidnapped and murdered years earlier. As Evers, Krastev earned a GED from Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colo., then came to Oregon, passed a background check and began working for the OLCC.

Krastev arrived in the United States as a teenager in the early 1990s, the guest of former Reagan administration official Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz was touring post-Communist Eastern Europe when he met Krastev's parents, both prominent Bulgarian academics. Impressed by the boy's intelligence, Horowitz invited Krastev to return to the U.S. with him to complete his education away from the turmoil created by the fall of the Soviet Union.

Krastev graduated from a prestigious Washington, D.C., private high school and was admitted to equally prestigious Davidson College in North Carolina, but in 1994, near the end of his sophomore year at Davidson, he dropped out and disappeared.

After living in Colorado for a few years under the name Danny Kaiser, Krastev arrived in Oregon and became OLCC agent Jason Evers.

As Evers, Krastev made a number of enemies in Central Oregon. In a few instances, bar and restaurant owners who had been cited by Evers successfully fought their tickets, providing video evidence to contradict the agent's claims.

In 2009, the Oregon Department of Justice launched an investigation into enforcement practices at the OLCC office run by Evers and transferred him to Eastern Oregon.

In 2010, federal authorities caught up with Krastev. A State Department investigation comparing passport applications against death records revealed someone had applied for a passport in 2002 using the identity of the Jason Evers who had been murdered in Ohio 20 years earlier.

Federal marshals located Krastev in Idaho and arrested him on suspicion of falsifying information on a passport application and identity theft.

After pleading guilty to federal charges against him, Krastev served just shy of two years in a federal prison for identity theft and passport fraud.

In January, he was turned over to ICE and transferred to Florence Correctional Center in Florence, Ariz., to face deportation proceedings.

During his stay at the Arizona prison, Krastev filed a civil rights complaint against the warden and food director, contending their failure to provide him with adequate vegan meals violated his right to practice his Buddhist faith.

A judge ruled against Krastev, dismissing his complaint in early July.

As a consequence of his deportation, Krastev is barred from legally re-entering the U.S. for 10 years, Munoz said.

Criminal Aliens in State Prisons as of Oct. 1, 2012

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Inmate Population Profile dated October 1, 2012 DOC indicated there were 14,234 prisoners incarcerated in DOC’s 14 prisons.

Not included in DOC’s October 1st Inmate Population Profile was DOC data indicating there were 1,242 foreign nationals (criminal aliens) incarcerated in its prison system.

All 1,242 criminal aliens incarcerated on October 1st by DOC had United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), detainers. The U.S. DHS–ICE is responsible for indentifying whether a DOC inmate is a criminal alien or a domestic inmate. If an inmate is identified as being a criminal alien, at U.S. DHS–ICE’s request, the DOC places an “ICE detainer” on the inmate that directs DOC officials to transfer custody to ICE following completion of the inmate’s state sanction.

Criminal aliens made up approximately 8.72% of the DOC October 1st prison population.

Comparing DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers from October 1, 2007 (985 criminal aliens) and October 1, 2012 (1,242 criminal aliens), the DOC prison system incarcerated 257 criminal aliens more than it did on October 1, 2007, a 26.09% increase.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons by number per county and percentage (%) per county equated to the following: 0-Baker (0.00%), 14-Benton (1.13%), 91-Clackamas (7.33%), 7-Clatsop (0.56%), 2-Columbia (0.16%), 8-Coos (0.64%), 3-Crook (0.24%), 0-Curry (0.00%), 19-Deschutes (1.53%), 5-Douglas (0.40%), 1-Gilliam (0.08%), 0-Grant (0.00%), 2-Harney (0.24%), 7-Hood River (0.56%), 50-Jackson (4.02%), 12-Jefferson (0.97%), 7-Josephine (0.56%), 11-Klamath (0.88%), 0-Lake (0.00), 67-Lane (5.39%), 8-Lincoln (0.64%), 29-Linn (2.33%), 11-Malheur (0.88%), 282-Marion (22.70%), 7-Morrow (0.56%), 286-Multnomah (23.03%), 1-OOS (0.08%), 19-Polk (1.53%), 0-Sherman (0.00%), 3-Tillamook (0.24%), 21-Umatilla (1.69%), 2-Union (0.16), 0-Wallowa (0.00%), 4-Wasco (0.32%), 229-Washington (18.44%), 0-Wheeler (0.00%), and 34-Yamhill (2.74%).

Your listeners should be aware the types of crime committed against their fellow Oregonians by the 1,242 criminal aliens.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers per crime and percentage (%) per crime equated to the following: 4-arsons (0.32%), 129-assaults (10.39%), 28-burglaries (2.25%), 28-driving offenses (2.25%), 175-drugs (14.09%), 1-escape (0.08%), 4-forgeries (0.32%), 153-homicides (12.32%), 50-kidnappings (4.02%), 71-others (5.72%), 175-rapes (14.09%), 79-robberies (6.36%), 233-sex abuses (18.76%), 93-sodomies (7.49%), 12-thefts (0.97%), and 7-vehicle thefts (0.56%).

Lars Larson Show listeners should also be aware of the source of the preceding crimes, the country of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons.

The self-declared counties of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers and percentage (%) per country equated to the following: 8-Canada (0.64%), 11-Cuba (0.88%), 17-El Salvador (1.37%), 31-Guatemala (2.49%), 12-Honduras (0.97%), 8-Laos (0.64%), 1,018-Mexico (81.96%), 99-others (7.97%), 6-Russia (0.48%), 14-Ukraine (1.13%), and 18-Vietnam (1.45%).

Beyond the DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers and incarceration percentages, per county and per crime type, or even country of origin, criminal aliens pose high economic cost on Oregonians.

An individual prisoner in the DOC prison system costs approximately ($84.81) per day to incarcerate.

The DOC’s incarceration cost for its 1,242 criminal alien prison population is approximately ($105,334.02) per day, ($737,338.14) per week, and ($38,446,917.30) per year.

None of the preceding cost estimates for the DOC to incarcerate the 1,242 criminal aliens include the dollar amount for legal services (indigent defense), court costs, nor cost estimates to cover victim assistance.

An unfortunate fact, the State of Oregon is not fully cooperating with the U.S. DHS–ICE to fight crime committed by criminal aliens who reside in Oregon.

In year 2007, a United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) report titled “Cooperation of SCAAP (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program) Recipients in the Removal of Criminal Aliens from the United States, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General Audit Division, Audit Report 07-07, October 2007, Redacted-Public Version” identified the State of Oregon as having an official “state sanctuary statute,” ORS 181.850 Enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The USDOJ, the federal governments top law enforcement agency, identified Oregon as a “sanctuary” for criminal aliens.

The State of Oregon should no longer be classified by U.S. federal government law enforcement as having an official “state sanctuary statute” for criminal aliens, nor should Oregon be a sanctuary for criminal aliens to kill, rape, or maim Oregonians.

Report by David Olen Cross, for delivery on the Lars Larson Show, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.

Report: Two-Thirds of Jobs Under Obama Went to Immigrants

Two-thirds of those who have found employment under President Obama are immigrants, both legal and illegal, according to an analysis that suggests immigration has soaked up a large portion of what little job growth there has been over the past three years.

The Center for Immigration Studies is releasing the study Thursday morning, a day ahead of the final Labor Department unemployment report of the campaign season, which is expected to show a sluggish job market more than three years into the economic recovery.

That slow market, combined with the immigration numbers, could explain why Mr. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have struggled to find a winning jobs message in some of the country's hardest-hit postindustrial regions.

"It's extraordinary that most of the employment growth in the last four years has gone to the foreign-born, but what's even more extraordinary is the issue has not even come up during a presidential election that is so focused on jobs," said Steven A. Camarota, the center's research director, who wrote the report along with demographer Karen Zeigler.

His numbers are stark: Since the first quarter of 2009, the number of immigrants of working age (16 to 65) who are employed has risen 2 million, from 21.2 million to 23.2 million. During the same time, native-born employment has risen just 1 million, to reach 119.9 million.

It's a trend years in the making: Immigrants are working more, and native-born Americans are working less.

In 2000, 76 percent of natives aged 18 to 65 were employed, but that dropped steadily to 69 percent this September. By contrast, immigrants started the last decade at 71 percent employment and rose to a peak of 74 percent at the height of the George W. Bush-era economic boom. They since have slid down to 69 percent amid the sluggish economy.

Competitive advantage

The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants the government to impose stricter limits on immigration, based its numbers on the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, which favors letting the markets rather than the government control the flow of immigration, said Mr. Camarota's numbers are "making a mountain out of a molehill."

He said delving into specific numbers explains why immigrants have done better over the past four years: They generally gravitate toward parts of the economy that have picked up faster in the nascent recovery.

"Most of the areas of the U.S. economy that are hiring right now, like agriculture and high-tech industries, are those where immigrants have always been overly represented," Mr. Nowrasteh said.

He also said immigrants are quicker to jump into the rebounding job market while native-born Americans, who under federal law have more welfare options and access to unemployment benefits, are slower to find work.

Mr. Nowrasteh and Mr. Camarota said another factor could be immigrants' mobility.

Natives have roots wherever they live, and it may take higher wages to get them to move for jobs, even if their homes are in depressed areas. Immigrants already have uprooted themselves and can more easily pick places where jobs are available.

Indeed, Mr. Camarota's numbers show that most of the immigrant employment growth went to new arrivals, not to foreign-born residents already in the United States — a figure that suggests immigrants already settled here were having some of the same difficulties as the native-born.

There is some bright news: an uptick over the past year among native-born Americans accounting for two-thirds of all new employment growth.

Full overhaul

Net immigration — both legal and illegal — averaged more than 1.1 million in the 1990s and slightly less than 900,000 in the past decade.

Mr. Camarota said it didn't slow much despite the economic downturn.

"We have a situation where the job market — the bottom fell out, yet we kept legal immigration relatively high without even a national debate," he said. "As a consequence, a lot of the job growth has been going to immigrants."

Immigration has been a touchy political issue for more than a decade, and while all sides agree that the system is broken, efforts to overhaul it in 2006 and 2007 fell short.

This campaign, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have talked about streamlining the legal immigration system to allow in more high-tech workers. Mr. Romney has said he wants to "staple a green card" to every advanced degree in science, mathematics or engineering earned by an immigrant.

Beyond that, Mr. Obama has vowed to make legalizing illegal immigrants a major push in a second term — and has said if he wins re-election, he thinks Republicans will embrace that goal, realizing that otherwise, Hispanic voters will reject the GOP.

Mr. Romney has talked about legalizing a small number of illegal immigrants, though he has been studiously vague about his specific plans in an effort to try not to alienate voters on either side of the issue.

Mr. Obama did take action this year to grant many illegal immigrants up to 30 years of age a tentative legal status that prevents them from being deported and authorizes them to work in the United States.

Some Republicans in Congress have criticized Mr. Obama's policy, saying it violates his powers and will mean more competition for scarce jobs.

Mr. Romney has said he would not rescind any stays of deportation that Mr. Obama issues but wouldn't issue any new ones himself.

The current system doles out legal visas based on family ties or employment prospects or even a random lottery designed to increase the diversity of those coming to the United States.

In 2007, senators proposed scrapping the legal system and replacing it with a points-based system that would assign a desirability grade to would-be immigrants. Work skills would have gained under that system.

But that proposal, along with the rest of the bill, collapsed amid a bipartisan Senate filibuster.

Mr. Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute said those decisions shouldn't be left up to bureaucrats anyway.

"The government can't pick winners and losers when it comes to green-energy firms like Solyndra, so what makes you think it can pick winners and losers when it comes to immigration?" he asked rhetorically.

© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC

Kansas case puts face on 'total identity theft'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- When Candida L. Gutierrez's identity was stolen, the thief didn't limit herself to opening fraudulent credit and bank accounts. She assumed Gutierrez's persona completely, using it to get a job, a driver's license, a mortgage and even medical care for the birth of two children.

All the while, the crook claimed the real Gutierrez was the one who had stolen her identity. The women's unusual tug-of-war puts a face on "total identity theft," a brazen form of the crime in which con artists go beyond financial fraud to assume many other aspects of another person's life.

The scheme has been linked to illegal immigrants who use stolen Social Security numbers to get paid at their jobs, and authorities fear the problem could soon grow to ensnare more unsuspecting Americans.

"When she claimed my identity and I claimed it back, she was informed that I was claiming it too," said Gutierrez, a 31-year-old Houston elementary school teacher. "She knew I was aware and that I was trying to fight, and yet she would keep fighting. It is not like she realized and she stopped. No, she kept going, and she kept going harder."

A 32-year-old illegal immigrant named Benita Cardona-Gonzalez is accused of using Gutierrez's identity during a 10-year period when she worked at a Topeka company that packages refrigerated foods.

For years, large numbers of illegal immigrants have filled out payroll forms using their real names but stolen Social Security numbers. However, as electronic employment verification systems such as E-Verify become more common, the use of fake numbers is increasingly difficult. Now prosecutors worry that more people will try to fool the systems by assuming full identities rather than stealing the numbers alone.

For victims, total identity theft can also have serious health consequences if electronic medical records linked to Social Security numbers get mixed up, putting at risk the accuracy of important patient information such as blood types or life-threatening allergies.

Federal Trade Commission statistics show that Americans reported more than 279,000 instances of identity theft in 2011, up from 251,100 a year earlier. While it is unclear how many of those cases involve total identity theft, one possible indicator is the number of identity theft complaints that involve more than one type of identity theft — 13 percent last year, compared with 12 percent a year earlier.

Nationwide, employment-related fraud accounted for 8 percent of identity theft complaints last year. But in states with large immigrant populations, employment-related identity fraud was much higher: 25 percent in Arizona, 15 percent in Texas, 16 percent in New Mexico, 12 percent in California.

Prosecutors say that the longer a person uses someone else's identity, the more confident the thief becomes using that identity for purposes other than just working.

Once they have become established in a community, identity thieves don't want to live in the shadows and they seek a normal life like everybody else. That's when they take the next step and get a driver's license, a home loan and health insurance.

"And so that is a natural progression, and that is what we are seeing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson, who is prosecuting the case against Gutierrez's alleged impostor.

Gutierrez first learned her identity had been hijacked when she was turned down for a mortgage more than a decade ago. Now each year she trudges to the Social Security Administration with her birth certificate, driver's license, passport and even school yearbooks to prove her identity and clear her employment record.

She spends hours on the phone with creditors and credit bureaus, fills out affidavits and has yet to clean up her credit history. Her tax records are a mess. She even once phoned the impostor's Kansas employer in a futile effort to find some relief.

Both women claimed they were identity theft victims and sought to get new Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration turned down the request from Gutierrez, instead issuing a new number to the woman impersonating her. And in another ironic twist, Gutierrez was forced to file her federal income tax forms using a special identification number usually reserved for illegal immigrants.

"It is such a horrible nightmare," Gutierrez said. "You get really angry, and then you start realizing anger is not going to help. ... But when you have so much on your plate and you keep such a busy life, it is really such a super big inconvenience. You have to find the time for someone who is abusing you."

When Gutierrez recently got married, her husband began researching identity theft on the Internet and stumbled across identity theft cases filed against other illegal immigrants working at Reser's Fine Foods, the same manufacturer where Cardona-Gonzalez worked. He contacted federal authorities in Kansas and asked them to investigate the employee working there who had stolen his wife's identity.

The alleged impostor was arrested in August, and her fingerprints confirmed that immigration agents had encountered Cardona-Gonzalez in 1996 in Harlingen, Texas, and sent her back to Mexico.

Cardona-Gonzalez did not respond to a letter sent to her at the Butler County jail, where she is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated identity theft, misuse of a Social Security number and production of a false document.

Her attorney, Matthew Works, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment. Court filings indicate the two sides are negotiating a plea agreement.

Citing privacy issues, the Social Security Administration declined to discuss the Gutierrez case. Reser's Fine Foods did not return a message left at its Topeka plant.

Anderson expects more cases of total identity theft "because we all know what is going on out there — which is thousands and thousands of people who are working illegally in the United States under false identities, mostly of U.S. citizens, and very little is being done about it. But we are doing something about it, one case at a time."

 

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