I have provided you with a press release that was issued by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on the 14th of October of this year, “Brazilian couple sentenced in $55 million visa fraud scheme”.
It touts the success of ICE special agents who worked to arrest and successfully prosecute a couple from Brazil who created a huge fraud conspiracy that, according to the press release, enabled more than one thousand illegal aliens to enter the United States by gaming the immigration/visa system and in so doing, provided 190 hotels with workers.
According to the press release, the magnitude of this conspiracy was so humongous that these two Brazilian nationals netted some 55 million dollars!
I am certainly glad that this fraud ring was dismantled, however, check out the jail sentences that were imposed on this couple as noted in the press release:
Wilson, 63, and Valeria Barbugli, 57, were sentenced to 18 and 24 months in federal prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven, Middle District of Florida. They were sentenced to less than a day in jail for every 2 or 3 aliens they smuggled into the United States! In fact, the woman actually got more time because she was engaged in money laundering!
If the crime of alien smuggling is a serious crime- and certainly it is, what message do these meager sentences send to alien smugglers? Smuggle more than one thousand aliens into our country by entering into a sophisticated fraud conspiracy scheme and be sentenced to 18 months in prison?
Consider this quote from the press release that addresses how serious the crime of conspiring to commit visa fraud is:
“These individuals orchestrated a large-scale visa fraud ring and knowingly employed foreign nationals not authorized to work in the United States, compromising our nation’s immigration system and putting our communities at risk,” said ICE Director John Morton.
“Visa fraud presents a vulnerability that could be exploited by dangerous criminals or even terrorists. That is why ICE will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who attempt to exploit these systems pay the price for their crimes.” I have to agree with John Morton when he talks about the seriousness of visa fraud. I have testified before a number of Congressional hearings about this very issue and, indeed, it was the topic of my very first Congressional hearing back in May of 1997 when I was asked to participate into a hearing on visa fraud and immigration benefit fraud in the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out in our country in 1993.
On May 18, 2004 I was called to testify before a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims by the then Ranking Minority Member, Sheila Jackson Lee. The topic of the hearing was:
“PUSHING THE BORDER OUT ON ALIEN SMUGGLING: NEW TOOLS AND INTELLIGENCE INITIATIVES”
I made the point at this hearing that in considering smuggling, visa fraud should be seen as a smuggling tactic, just as running our nation’s borders or stowing away on ships and other conveyances entering the United States are considered methods of alien smuggling.
Here is the link to the transcript of this hearing:
This is why I have consistently made the point that any state that has an international airport or a seaport is a border state!
Now here is the real question that the press release does not even address- where are the more than one thousand smuggled aliens right now?
According to recent news reports, ICE has fewer than 300 special agents seeking to locate and apprehend the estimated 5 million of more visa violators to be found throughout our country!
I was recently interviewed by Casey Wian of CNN about the issue of the lack of resources dedicated to seeking to track down visa violators. Here is a link to that video in which I make a very brief appearance:
Does anyone in our government know? Does anyone in our government care? Were these aliens among those I discussed yesterday whose removal (deportation) hearings have been terminated because they don’t have criminal convictions?
While we are on the topic of criminal convictions- were any of these smuggled aliens criminally charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy with the couple whose sentences amounted to a bit of wrist slapping? If the smugglers were charged with conspiracy, they had to be conspiring with the aliens they assisted to enter the United States by lying on their applications for visas.
The United States State Department has a website that lays out a thumbnail explanation of visa fraud and passport fraud that can be found at this website:
Here is the portion of the material to be found on that website that addresses visa fraud:
What is a visa?
The U.S. visa is a document, obtained at any U.S. embassy or consulate, granting a non-U.S. traveler *permission to apply for admission into the United States at a port of entry. It is not a guarantee of entry into the United States. Department of Homeland Security inspectors determine if, and for how long, an alien is admitted. To learn more about applying for a U.S. visa, visit Destination USA. There are two basic types of visas: