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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Immigration Raids Focus on Identity Theft

Raids conducted today by federal agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security are targeting workers at Swift meatpacking plants who are accused of using stolen Social Security numbers in order to get jobs, an attorney says.

Immigration law experts say the combination of identity theft and undocumented workers is a new trend.

"It used to be that sellers of illegal documents simply made up Social Security numbers," says F. Brian Graham, shareholder and chair of the immigration practice at Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C. "But now, employerscan get immediate confirmation as to whether a number is real. So the counterfeiters have had to change the way they operate."

Graham, who previously worked in the General Counsel's office atthe Immigration and Naturalization Service -- the agency that preceded Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- says businesses and federalauthorities eventually will track down the stolen numbers. When they do, penalties for workers convicted in such a scheme will be much greater.

"The old way, if you got caught with a false number, they simply sentyou back to your home country," Graham says. "Now, workers implicatedin ID theft face up to 15 years in federal prison, and they'll have toforfeit every penny they made with the stolen Social Security number. Inthis scenario, identity theft hurts everyone -- the people who have their IDs stolen and the workers who receive the stolen information."

Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C. is among the largest business law firms in Texas, representing major companies regionally and nationally in thereal estate, financial services and technology industries. Winstead has offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, SanAntonio, and The Woodlands, Texas; and Washington D.C.

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