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Series of Immigration Raids Hits Identity-Theft Ring

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Series of Immigration Raids Hits Identity-Theft Ring

Business

Series of Immigration Raids Hits Identity-Theft Ring

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

Federal authorities are continuing to investigate identity theft rings they say are connected to the illegal immigrants arrested at six meatpacking facilities. The government says the rings provided documents to the workers. Nearly 1,300 people are in custody following the raids on Swift & Company plants yesterday. It was the country's largest worksite enforcement operation.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: The investigation began in February. That's when authorities noticed, in interviewing criminal aliens in Iowa, that many said they had worked for Swift using other people's identities. Julie Myers is head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ms. JULIE MYERS (United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement): The investigation uncovered substantial evidence that hundreds of illegal aliens working at Swift had apparently stolen the identities of U.S. citizens and improperly used their Social Security numbers and dates of birth to gain employment.

FESSLER: She called it a disturbing new trend, that instead of using fake IDs, illegal immigrants were able to obtain the real thing. Officials with the Federal Trade Commission say they linked hundreds of Social Security numbers used by Swift workers to individuals who reported being victims of identity theft. Authorities say other people might have willingly sold their documents, such as birth certificates, to make money.

The meat processing company has been taking part in a government pilot program that helps employers verify their workers' Social Security numbers, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the program has its limits.

Mr. MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Homeland Security Secretary): The law currently does not allow the Social Security Administration to refer to us instances where the same Social Security number is used on multiple occasions in multiple workplaces as a basis for obtaining jobs.

FESSLER: Swift & Company says it never knowingly hired unauthorized workers and that it participated in the pilot program in good faith. The company went to court late last month to stop the planned raids, arguing that they would cause substantial harm to its business, but a federal judge denied the request.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.

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