During the mid-1980s, just after the Immigration Reform and Control Act amnesty passed, I taught an English as a second language class at the Lodi Adult School in California's San Joaquin Valley. The American history and civics curriculum was designed as the first of several mandatory steps that would take illegal immigrants from alien status to green card to citizenship.
To document the students' progress to the INS, teachers had to fill out and sign various forms. Needless to say, the process involved significant amounts of paperwork.
Now that I am aware of all the angles, I look back twenty years and see how easily fraud could be—and most likely was—perpetrated.
The most vital document in the amnesty process was the coveted "Certificate of Completion". When signed by the teacher or any other school official, it served as evidence that the student attended forty hours of English instruction.
The certificates probably should have been kept under lock and key. But the adult school offered so many ESL sections, taught by so many different teachers to so many different students at so many different times of the day, that we needed immediate access to them.
They were left out in full view, where anyone who worked in another section of the school could easily grab a few to distribute to friends or relatives—or possibly sell on the street.
That was then—a small potatoes operation. And this is now, when immigration fraud is more sophisticated and much wider reaching.
What I have learned since my early adult school experience is that the federal government cannot administer to any immigration program. Juan Mann, among others, has written at length about government ineptitude.
As well versed on immigration fraud as I have become over the last two decades, nothing prepared me for the U. S. Department of State's "Fact Sheet" released last week. It revealed that as many as 80 percent of all "Priority-3" or "P-3" designation grants are fraudulent.
P-3 status is given to individuals of certain nationalities (mostly African) who are claimed as a parent, spouse, or minor child of legal residents in the United States. Think chain migration, refugee style.
If fraud was that rampant—and no credible person disputes it—then as reported by blogger Ann Corcoran (e-mail her) of Refugee Resettlement Watch, tens of thousands of Africans—mostly Somalis—live in the U.S. illegally.
Persistent rumors about fraud encouraged the State Department to investigate. And since 95 percent of P-3s come from African countries, it began there by using DNA testing.
The State Department started with a sample of about five hundred refugees claiming family ties (primarily Somali and Ethiopians) in Nairobi, Kenya who were under consideration for U.S. resettlement through the P-3 program.
Kenya had the highest level of P-3 "irregularities."
When that sample suggested extensive fraud, the DNA testing was expanded to Uganda, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia and Cote d'Ivoire. Most of the approximately 3,000 refugees tested are from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Liberia.
According to a source formerly at the State Department:
"Somalis have been entering the US as refugees since the early 1990's and, looking back, I could say with certainty that the figure of 80 percent being based on fraudulent claims of family relationship is conservative.
"The recent (but ridiculously late) State Department release on this problem completely soft-pedaled the Somali involvement. The fraud among this population was and still is widespread, and is in fact an industry, involving not only the US anchors and overseas refugee applicants, but overseas processing entities in charge of registering and seeing refugees through the process.
"There were multitudes of in-house corruption scandals, where local overseas staff were simply replaced with other equally corrupt staff. I am pretty sure that people made small fortunes."
The cleverness and determination of the Somalis is unlimited.
My source continued:
"The US stopped accepting any document from Somalia at least a decade ago as proof of anything (beyond the ability to purchase). The document market in Nairobi (as well as everywhere else, it seems) is notorious.
"One long-standing trick was for Somali refugees admitted to the US to travel to Canada, sell their US documents to others, and claim asylum in Canada. In the mid 1990's, their chances of getting Canadian asylum were good.
"Purchasers of their old refugee documents (usually persons already admitted as refugees to Canada) would then enter the US under those bought identities (keeping their Canadian immigration documents). These folks then collected public benefits both in the US and Canada, thus abusing two countries at once!"
Another source, insisting on anonymity, said:
"Knowing that tens of thousands of Somalis are in the US illegally, I must speak up. I am sorry I must speak anonymously. Unfortunately, the intimidation factor is keeping most of us who know what is happening silent. Having worked with refugees for many years, I have firsthand knowledge of the systematic abuse, fraud and corruption of our legal 'humanitarian' immigration system by Somalis.
"In my experience, the Somali Centers have figured out an efficient way of 'proving' eligibility for P-3 (family reunification) status. They have the forms and procedures worked out and submit one application after another. The process moves fast.
"The so-called 'anchors' in the US are mostly men. Exposure of wrongdoing on part of these 'anchors' is virtually impossible. It threatens the very heart of the Somali Center industry. You need to know that filing immigration papers is the main industry of the Somali Centers. Other projects are primarily for decoration and PR.
"Those other projects, funded through grants no less, were supposedly for addressing health issues, childcare, or family violence. These grants are often not being used for the stated purposes."
Because of its recent discoveries, the State Department suspended the P-3 program.
Reiterating what's obvious to our readers but not to the federal government, Allen told me:
"The temptation to fraud is great in refugee programs, because resettlement often represents such a highly valued solution for persons in desperate situations. In today's conditions, the fraud problem has probably worsened, owing to modern communications and the growth of organized crime or other enterprises trying to make money from facilitating a person's inclusion in a resettlement program.
"The United States now has State Department personnel or federal contractors in 40 different locations considering 60 different nationalities for the refugee program. In recent years, the main refugee sending-regions have been Africa (Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Ethiopia), at nearly half of overall arrivals, followed by the former USSR and East Asia (Laos, Vietnam, Burma)."
"Self-interest," said Allen, "drives the refugee industry."
Even the United Nations —or perhaps especially the U.N.—needs oversight.
Allen reminded me that in 2002 the United Nations announced that about 70 of its people were implicated in a long-running bribery and extortion scheme involving the selection of refugees bound for Western countries.
That total included three ringleaders at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the main UN organization charged with protecting refugees around the world.
António Guterres, the UNHCR's High Commissioner, oversees 6,300 employees working in over 110 countries "providing protection and assistance to nearly 33 million refugees and others of concern."
Certainly, all 33 million would love to live in the U.S. and submitting fraudulent documents to get here would be a minor consideration—if even that.
In another related and troubling development in the scandalous increase in visa issuance, effective November 17 visas are no longer needed for most visitors from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
The Department of Homeland Security doesn't share our worry that any of them may overstay their visas and settle as illegal aliens.
Obviously, DHS is unaware that more than 5 million temporary visas holders over the last ten years changed their status to "permanent resident" and will likely remain in the U.S. for the rest of their lives. I addressed this problem at length in May 9th column: It's Official: Legal Immigration Is A Bigger Problem Than Illegal Immigration.
That title sums it up.
Awareness about the porous border that we share with Mexico is high. Workplace enforcement, at least until president-elect Barack Obama takes office, serves as an illegal immigration deterrent.
But with legal immigration, the myriad visas, with their vagaries and loopholes, present a frightening threat. Under the blanket of "legal immigration," anything goes.
Only Brian Mosley, a reporter for a local Tennessee newspaper, covered the P-3 disgrace. The mainstream media ignored it.[ Refugee Status Stayed After Feds Confirm Fraud, by Brian Mosley, Shelbyville Times-Gazette, November 16, 2008]
When citizens mount the same vigorous battle against visa abuse that we have fought against illegal immigration, we'll make similar progess.
To help you get fired up our new cause, try this: the next time that you hear "visa," you should automatically think "fraud."
You'll be right more often than not.Joe [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.