Instead, we hear about poor Ignacio who made a "bad decision." The press likes to fawn over foreign lawbreakers by saying they "only come to work." However in the process, illegal aliens steal Social Security numbers, which is actually a serious felony for good reason.
Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, an undocumented worker from Mexico, made a curious and undeniably bad decision. After working under an assumed name for six years, he decided to use his real name and exchanged one set of phony identification numbers for another.
The change made his employer suspicious and the authorities were called in. The old numbers were made up, but the new ones he bought happened to belong to real people. Federal prosecutors said that was enough to label Flores-Figueroa an identity thief.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on prosecutors' aggressive use of a new law that was intended to strengthen efforts to combat identity theft. In at least hundreds of cases last year, workers accused of immigration violations found themselves facing the more serious identity theft charge as well, without any indication they knew their counterfeit Social Security and other identification numbers belonged to actual people and were not made up.
The government has used the charge, which carries a mandatory two-year minimum prison term, to persuade people to plead guilty to the lesser immigration charges and accept prompt deportation. Many of those undocumented workers had been arrested in immigration raids.
The case hinges on how the justices resolve this question: Does it matter whether someone using a phony ID knows that it belongs to someone else?
The government, backed by victims' rights groups, says no. The "havoc wrecked on the victim's life is the same either way," said Stephen Masterson, a Los Angeles-based lawyer, in his brief for the victims' rights groups. [Supreme Court hears immigrant's ID theft case, February 22, 2009]