The mainstream media tuned in when amnesty advocates worried about identity thieves and frauds being left out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But since USCIS clarified that it does not want to know about those felony crimes, the press has been silent.
On Thursday, September 13th, the Washington Post reported that some illegal aliens were hesitant to apply for DACA for fear that their histories of identity fraud and theft would be exposed. Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association pleaded for an exception for these felony crimes: "We would hope," she said, "there would be some understanding on the part of the government that, yes, this is a necessary part of living in the shadows."
One day later: wish granted!
On Friday, September 14th, USCIS reassured DACA applicants that they would not have to reveal their felony identity theft and fraud crimes when they apply for a work permit: "When you are filing a Form I-765 as part of a Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals request," wrote USCIS, "question nine (9) is asking you to list those Social Security numbers that were officially issued to you by the Social Security Administration."
The actual text of question 9 on Form I-765 (the application for a work permit) reads: "Social Security Number (include all numbers you have ever used) (if any)." That made identity thieves and frauds nervous. But by clarifying that they are only interested in SSN's that were "officially issued" to the applicant, USCIS has provided a loophole for illegal aliens who have committed (but not been convicted of) felony crimes to get a work permit. The government doesn't want to know about the identity fraud and theft that DACA applicants have committed. If USCIS doesn't know about those felony crimes, they won't be obligated to deny those applications.
On Friday, September 21, immigration lawyer Allan Wernick wrote about the clarification in his weekly column for the New York Daily News:
"Good news for deferred action applicants: If you used a false social security card, you need not reveal the number on your deferred action application forms. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has clarified that when the forms ask for an applicant’s social security number, it refers to social security numbers issued to the applicant. If you used a friend’s number, a made-up number or a stolen number, you should answer N/A for “not applicable” where it asks for the number."
That afternoon, Wernick's column was the second news link on a Google search for "deferred action social security number." Several days later and nearly two weeks after USCIS issued the clarification, Wernick's column remains the only news link that addresses the issue. If readers of this blog find any examples I missed, please mention it in the comments below.
I've blogged before about the media's identity-theft blind spot in its immigration reporting. USCIS didn't hold a press conference to announce its clarification. Instead, they left it to the immigration lawyers like Williams and Wernick to spread the word to other identity frauds and thieves whose numbers could be in the thousands. Immigration reporters must be aware of USCIS's revised watered-down rules for reporting Social Security numbers. The media's blind spot about immigration's negative impact on American workers has reached "see no evil" proportions that includes ignoring identity theft and fraud.
Update: On Tuesday, September 25, the New York Times reported the clarification and quoted an administration official who confirmed that they are not interested in catching identity-related felony crimes as part of the DACA process: "Department of Homeland Security officials 'are not conferring immunity on anyone,' an administration official said. 'But they are not interested in using this as a way to identify one-off cases where some individual may have violated some federal law in an employment relationship.'"
The Times also reported that employers who help DACA applicants by verifying illegal employment will not have it held against them except in extreme cases where the information indicated "'widespread patterns and practices of unlawful hiring' or 'abusive employers who are violating other criminal laws,'" according to a DHS spokesperson quoted in the story.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Sep 26th 2012 @ 11:08am EDT