Other than those citizens whose relatives are American-Indian the rest of us have ancestors who immigrated to the United States. Throughout our history there have been people who have entered the country both legally and illegally. Both sets of immigrants face similar problems in facing new customs, technology they may not understand, and dealing with the everyday activities of life.
Those people who enter the country without documentation (illegally) and want to work will need a Social Security number (SSN). Experts have studied this problem and that immigrants get their documentation in a variety of ways. Some buy an entire package including birth certificate, SSN and even a driver’s license. The sellers use any SSN they can steal no matter whether it belongs to a child or adult. Other immigrants make up a number and provide that to employers that don’t ask to see a SSN card. Yet others use their own children’s identities.
Children born in the United States become citizens at birth regardless of the status of the parents. Some families use their newborn’s SSN as the family identity. They get employment and even apply for credit. As the years pass the family does well, buys a couple of cars, pays their bills on times and eventually qualify for a mortgage on a house. They live quietly, drive safely and other than the original crimes never run afoul of the law. Unfortunately when that child reaches 18 a conflict of interest begins.
I’ve studied “all in the family” identity theft cases since 2002. A couple of years ago I worked with a 19-year-old woman whose parents had illegally immigrated into the country and used her SSN she received when she was born to establish her father’s identity. Even her name was similar to his.
The problem was that since the family had car leases, a mortgage and had been using her number for employment and tax purposes, she couldn’t use it herself. She couldn’t report it as stolen as the police might arrest her family or even worse her parents might be deported.
I couldn’t provide legal advice and recommended she speak with an immigration attorney. I don’t even know her name so that she could tell me her story anonymously. While her parents committed several crimes when they first entered the country years ago, including identity theft, they did so to create a better life for their children.
Soon there will be a whole generation of young adults facing this same problem. Policies will need to be developed to help not only the innocent sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants but also the hard-working parents who were determined to make a good life for their children. These same parents have contributed to their community and the nation.
Only time will tell. Until then, these immigrant children will continue to have a life without credit, unable to get a job and be forced to live with their parents. This linked video tells more about “all in the family” identity theft.