|For Immediate Release
July 20, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Markup of
H.R. 2552, the “Identity Theft Improvement Act of 2011”
Chairman Smith: H.R. 2552, the “Identity Theft Improvement Act of 2011,” was sponsored by Congressman Goodlatte and co-sponsored by Congressman Schiff, a former member of this Committee, to help the Justice Department pursue and convict those who use stolen identities to commit crime.
Identity theft is a persistent problem in the United States. According to the Justice Department, in 2008 an estimated 12 million people – representing 5% of people age 16 or older in the United States – experienced at least one incident of identity theft within a two-year period. The total financial cost of identity theft in 2008 was over $17 billion.
Identity theft is often used by illegal immigrants to enter and remain in the United States. For example, on May 12, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a worksite enforcement action at Argiprocessors, Inc., a kosher meat processor in Postville, Iowa.
Three-hundred-and-six illegal immigrant employees were criminally charged, 62 were released on humanitarian grounds, and 21 were held on administrative charges.
The majority of the defendants were charged with aggravated identity theft in conjunction with the felony of using false identification to commit immigration-related crimes.
However, a recent Supreme Court decision has made prosecuting identity theft more difficult. In Flores-Figueroa [fee-guh-ROH-uh] v. U.S., the Supreme Court held that the aggravated identity theft statute requires the government to prove that the defendant knew the means of identification belonged to another person. It is not sufficient that the government prove that the defendant knew that the identification was fake, or even that it was stolen.
This knowledge requirement is difficult to establish in immigration cases. Under this decision, an illegal immigrant can use someone else’s social security number, and evade responsibility because the authorities can’t prove that the illegal immigrant specifically knew that number belonged to another person.
As a direct result, in the meat processor case, a manager of the plant has already successfully withdrawn her guilty plea.
Likewise, the former vice president of the plant is facing aggravated identity theft charges in relation to his employment of large numbers of illegal immigrants. According to a recent news article, he intends to move for dismissal of these charges based on the Flores-Figueroa [fee-guh-ROH-uh] decision.
H.R. 2552 corrects the identity theft statute so that the government need not prove that someone using a false means of identification to commit a felony knows that the ID belongs to another person.
The impact on the victim is still the same, regardless of whether a criminal makes up a social security number that belongs to a real person or knowingly steals an individual’s identification documents.
Identify theft is an incredibly destructive crime that can destroy the lives of its victims. The law must be fixed to ensure that perpetrators are punished.
H.R. 2552 still protects defendants’ rights, while removing an impractical and unfair hurdle to our identity theft and immigration investigations.
This legislation helps improve our efforts to catch and prosecute illegal immigrants and other criminals who commit felonies using false IDs.