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Extreme ID charges to be heard in Supreme Court

by Lynn Tramonte on 10/23/2008 at 10:44pm

Does this sound like the best way to solve our immigration
problems?

Hunt down those who are using fake IDs to work; distort the charges
by accusing them not of having fake documents but of “aggravated identity theft”;
coerce each individual into pleading guilty to lesser offenses; toss them in
jail; and, after they’ve served jail time on the taxpayer’s dime, deport them?

To us, it sounds ineffective. Time-consuming. A wee bit costly. A tad extreme. 

Soon, though, we’ll get to hear what the Supreme
Court thinks
.

The highest court in the land has decided to hear the case
of Ignacio
Carlos Flores-Figueroa
, a Mexican citizen who found himself behind bars
after he was convicted of “aggravated identity theft.” According to
Flores-Figueroa’s lawyers, he made up a Social Security number so he could get
a job at a steel plant in East Moline,
Ill. He was sentenced to more
than six years in prison. 

His lawyers argue that because he didn’t know the Social
Security number was already taken, it wasn’t stealing, and that he had no
intention of using the number for anything remotely resembling identity theft.

“When a person makes up a Social Security number, having no
idea whether it belongs to someone else, it is hard to see how that conduct
qualifies as ‘theft’ ‑ much less ‘aggravated theft,’” the lawyers said in an Associated
Press story

Meanwhile, the Bush administration said it doesn’t matter.
He used the fake ID. He’s guilty of identity theft. Period.

Well, it figures that when your political party goads you
into derailing your own immigration
reform plan
, you just throw the book at undocumented workers and hope it
sticks. Having the punishment fit the crime is no longer a priority for Lady Justice. 

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. 

According to the Chicago
Tribune
, the legal tactic was first used in January 2007, when 53
meatpacking plant employees were arrested and charged with identity theft. This
past May, more than 300 of the undocumented workers rounded up and prosecuted
during the Postville,
Iowa, meatpacking plant raid
were criminally charged. 

“With this threat hanging over their heads, 302 immigrant
workers were pressured into pleading guilty to lesser charges,” according to
the Inspired
Faith, Effective Action
blog, mostly document fraud. “These lesser charges
may bar many of them from returning to the United
States ever again, even if their family remains in the U.S.” 

Unfortunately for Mr. Flores-Figueroa, the Supreme Court
won’t hear arguments until next year. In the meantime, this Administration will
likely “stay the course” or, rather, increase its use of extreme identity theft
charges against undocumented workers, no matter the cost.



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