Blog of Rights

Mónica M.
Ramírez

Highest Court Ends Misuse of Identity Theft Law that Punished Innocent Immigrant Workers

By Mónica M. Ramírez, Immigrants' Rights Project at 10:32am

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided an important case, Flores-Figueroa v. United States, which has serious implications for immigrant workers. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that "aggravated identity theft," a serious federal crime imposing a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence, cannot be used to criminalize persons who have no knowledge that a false ID or Social Security number or other means of identification they are using belongs to another person.

During the Bush Administration, the government prosecuted or threatened to prosecute hundreds of immigrant workers for aggravated identity theft even when there was no evidence that the worker knew that he or she was using false documents that belonged to another person. As the Supreme Court has now held, the government's view contradicted the plain words of the statute, which requires knowledge.

The most notorious example of this occurred almost one year ago, on May 12, 2008, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa and subjected more than 300 Guatemalan and Mexican workers to criminal prosecution for using false documents to work. The prosecutions were designed and implemented to achieve high-pressure, mass processing of hundreds of indigent defendants in an extremely short period of time. Not only were few attorneys appointed to represent hundreds of defendants, but the government threatened workers with charges of aggravated identity theft — carrying the two-year mandatory prison sentence — if they did not plead guilty (within seven days) to knowingly using false employment documents or a false Social Security number with a sentence of five months incarceration.

Sweeps Threaten Latinos and Constitution in Maricopa County

By Mónica M. Ramírez, Immigrants' Rights Project at 1:58pm

On Friday, March 21, 2008, at around 4:30 p.m., I found myself in the middle of one of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration sweeps in a Latino neighborhood in Phoenix. I was on my way to Cave Creek-a suburb outside of Phoenix-to meet with…

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