Thursday, December 28, 2006

U.S. privacy laws protect illegals who steal identities

Illegal immigrants in the United States often work for years using someone else’s Social Security and yet are not detected. How? Because privacy laws protect them.

The Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration does notice clues that suggest illegal workers, such as multiple people using the same Social Security number. Privacy laws, however, prevent them from passing along that information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other law enforcement agencies.

Some in government are calling for these agencies to share tax information to help enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

After the Dec. 12 raids at Swift meatpacking plants in Iowa and five other states by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff said Congress should grant immigration officials greater access to Social Security Administration employment records so they could be searched for identity theft and fraud.

Consumer advocates and immigrant rights advocates oppose such data sharing - particularly about people who apply to the IRS for an individual tax numbers (ITN)s. That’s a nine-digit number that the IRS issues without questioning legal status. With an individual tax identification number, undocumented workers can get tax refunds, open bank accounts and build a credit history. Some lenders even offer home loans to people with ITNs.

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