The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement hosted a hearing on Wednesday titled “Document Fraud in Employment Authorization: How an E-Verify Requirement Can Help." The hearing featured the testimony of Jennifer Andrushko who found out two years ago that the Social Security number of her 5-year-old son has been being used for more than a decade by an illegal alien for the purposes of employment.
While the Judiciary Committee has had its share of great witnesses over the years, Mrs. Andrushko was the most interesting I have heard in a long time. She presented herself as an ordinary American, not particularly wealthy and without the typically long rap sheet of legal expertise, degrees, and government experience. She was probably the most ordinary person in that room, which is what made her testimony stand out.
There are so many people in this town who are born and raised inside some sort of social bubble, whether it’s wealth, a career in education, career government work, big business, media, career Congressman, etc. That is not always a bad thing, because we need these type of experienced people to work out solutions to complicated legal problems, yet they are often disconnected from the meat and potatoes issues that concern our country. It was refreshing.
Mrs. Andrushko described how her family fell on hard times as a result of the economic downturn. As she spoke, I could visualize my friends and family back in Georgia experiencing similar problems.
She was a young mother, her husband lost his job, and they had to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. Unfortunately, despite their lack of income, they were turned down for this financial aid because their infant son made too much money.
Let us be clear, her son is not the E-Trade baby nor is he a child actor.
Instead, they discovered that her son’s Social Security number was stolen by an illegal alien years before he was born and assigned a number. In essence, some illegal alien just made up a number and because the number was so far in the future, it took years to discover the problem. It was a nightmare for the Andrushko family as they tried to restore their son’s good name without the help of Social Security or any type of law enforcement.
In addition to Mrs. Andrushko's testimony, ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) were initially invited to testify, they refused to provide honest and punctual testimony and were thus “uninvited” by the Chairman prior to the hearing, leaving Ronald Mortensen with the Center for Immigration Studies and Bert Lemkes with Van Wingerden International as the only other witnesses.
Chairman Gallegly opened the hearing explaining to the Committee why ICE was “uninvited” due to the censorship of their testimony by the Obama Administration. After this brief disclosure, the Chairman proceeded to read his statement describing how easy it is to make fake IDs citing You Tube videos that detail the process. After describing the enormity of the identity theft problem, he provided a simple solution: mandatory E-Verify. He pointed out that E-Verify is supported by 82% of Americans and would close the identity theft loophole if made mandatory because nearly everyone needs a job and the system is designed to uncover identity problems as a means of verifying work authorization.
Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren countered the Chairman’s argument in her opening statement by claiming that E-Verify would make the identity theft problem worse. She said it would “exacerbate” the problem at taxpayer expense because it would force employers to falsify documentation in order to maintain their (illegal) workforce. She essentially argued there were more jobs available than legal standing employees, which probably isn’t the best argument Democrats can make during an election year and considering the current economy. To support her outdated talking points, she then used a baseless assessment to claim that E-Verify would cost the United States $17.5 billion in lost revenue (surprisingly not the first time she has used this number), basically a dollar for every false assumption she makes about the economy.
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith then read his opening statement discussing the merits of E-Verify and how the employment issue relates to identity theft. Specifically, the Chairman said,
Dishonest employees simply hand employers fake documents that “reasonably appear to be genuine,” and an honest employer has no recourse other than to accept them. And many dishonest employers actually welcome employees who submit counterfeit identification documents so they can pay lower wages or otherwise exploit illegal immigrant employees. Sometimes these dishonest employers themselves actually obtain the documents for the illegal workers.
H.R. 2885, the “Legal Workforce Act,” a bipartisan bill that was approved by the Judiciary Committee last September, gives USCIS and SSA additional tools to help recognize and prevent identity theft. For instance, the bill requires DHS to allow individuals to “lock” their own Social Security number so that it cannot be used by imposters to verify work eligibility.
As long as the IRCA standard -- whether an identification document “reasonably appears on its face to be genuine,” -- is the only requirement for employers, illegal immigrants will be able to easily cheat the system and get U.S. jobs.
The Chairman then shifted focus away from his prepared talking points to discuss the procedural problem regarding the ICE testimony. He claimed someone “high-up” in the Administration censored the testimony (likely as a means of political damage control). The Chairman emphasized that this was not the first time ICE was uncooperative in this regard and that it would have in essence been a waste of the Committee’s time to entertain another misleading and ambiguous statement.
Rep. Lofgren then challenged his judgment by saying, “if there is censorship here, it is by this Committee for not considering the testimony.” She said 66% of American support Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and alleged that the Committee’s majority was afraid to confront that truth.
In contrast, Chairman Smith brushed aside her bogus poll and stood his ground.
Chairman Gallegly then moved to the witness testimony. The first person to speak was Dr. Ronald Mortensen with the Center for Immigration Studies who used his five minutes to describe the extent of the ID theft problem and the unfortunate repercussions suffered by the victims. Most startling, he pointed out how children have had their names destroyed before they’ve even had an opportunity to make names for themselves as citizens. Dr. Mortensen’s testimony was a great lead into the dreadful story Jennifer Andrushko detailed about her son’s identification being stolen.
The third witness, Bert Lemkes, was invited by the Minority. He identified himself as a legal immigrant whose company used E-Verify. He stressed the need for more Agricultural visas and less emphasis on “enforcement only” solutions. He criticized the E-Verify program using data from an outdated Westat study, which used estimates instead of real numbers.
After Mr. Lemkes concluded, Chairman Gallegly immediately went to work trying to educate him about how disseminate creditable data from sized to fit fabrications. The Chairman emphasized that estimates were not the best means of assessment and basically made all of Mr. Lemkes conclusions seem ignorant and deceptive.
Ranking Member Lofgren came to his defense agreeing that H-2A is a mess and that E-Verify “will destroy agriculture.” She was friendly to Mrs. Andrushko, but instead of addressing her problem and concerns, Mrs. Lofgren decided to forward her testimony to the Ways and Means Committee, a polite way of saying she doesn’t believe this is an immigration problem.
After Rep. Steve King spoke, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee walked into the room with an extra long scowl. It was her turn to speak and she apologized for being late due to a mark-up in the Homeland Security Committee. She had read the witness testimony in advance and then proceeded to make some friendly comments to Mrs. Andrushko before proceeding to her written statement.
She opened her statement by proclaiming, “When O’ Lord when will we have Comprehensive Immigration Reform” so everyone can be protected. She then proceeded to describe a friend in the forgery industry, but in fairness clarified that it was metal forging, not identities. This caused a number of people in the room to smile and giggle. It was just a fun slip of the tongue considering the topic at hand, no harm no foul. However, this enraged Mrs. Jackson Lee who then scolded the Chairman, his staff, and the blond haired lady “that sits in the front row of our meetings all the time” (NumbersUSA’s own Rosemary Jenks, and her Capitol Hill entourage).
Mrs. Jackson Lee said, “Let me be clear, this is not a funny issue.” Chairman Gallegly then apologized and Mrs. Jackson Lee accepted, but then said, “I’m sure I’ll find myself on Rush Limbaugh, but since I have a backbone of steel, let me say to all the right wingers and tea partiers, I don’t care.”
She then proceeded with her comments describing how Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the solution to all our problems. She even cited the Restaurant Association for being advocates of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and closed by saying, “I have nothing to apologize for.”
Chairman Gallegly then spoke up in defense of the Restaurant Association, which actually supports E-Verify.
When it was Mr. Gowdy’s turn to ask questions, he used his time to return to the earlier discussion about the ICE testimony. He said, “It’s a shame ICE couldn’t comply with subpoenas in a timely fashion” and that “It’s been a bad week with respect to the disconnect with government agencies and the people.” He said he wanted to ask ICE why they did not detain the illegal alien who stole the ID from Mrs. Andrushko’s son and what they are doing to break up ID theft rings. He said the people he represents in South Carolina can’t “fathom” someone being convicted of a crime here illegally and not being removed from the country. He then thanked the witnesses and Chairman which opened the door for Ranking Member Lofgren to defend ICE, who she said was eager to testify and accused the Chairman of uninviting them because he disagreed with their statement.
Chairman Gallegly then essentially claimed that ICE was so nonresponsive that Mr. Gowdy would have received the same answers to his questions whether they were in the room or not because they have no answer. The Chairman then adjourned the Committee.
Despite the poor attendance and often discussed topics, if not together, of E-Verify and identity theft, this turned out to be a very good hearing. It had a great witness, good participation, some back and forth banter, and lots of entertainment, minus the popcorn. The Committee heard new testimony and fresh perspectives, while also discussing procedural problems with the Administration. Immigration may not be a funny issue, but no one said it can’t be fun sometimes, except Mrs. Jackson Lee.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Analyst for NumbersUSA