The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

55° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fake IDs fooling the feds

    W

    ith midterm elections coming up, many politically minded folks have followed the whirlwind controversy surrounding illegal immigration. Earlier this year, the debate was especially fierce, pitting our own Arizona senators, Republicans Jon Kyl and John McCain, against one another. You may even remember the protests across the country, including here on campus.

    The answer to the proposed guest-worker program was to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That would keep the illegal immigrants out of the United States, or so was the theory.

    That wall won’t keep us safe from the newest threat in border protection.

    All right, so terrorism is hardly new. But a terrorist’s possible method of entry is slightly depressing: walking right passed Border Patrol, posing as legal and law-abiding American citizens.

    That’s right, a new audit of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, now under the wing of the Department of Homeland Security, showed startling gaps in the enforcement of identification at our nation’s ports of entry. The audit, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, was also performed three years ago, and they found similar problems.

    Undercover investigators attempted to enter the country between February and May of this year, following the same routine as the audit three years ago. They would pass through customs checkpoints posing as American citizens but with counterfeit and/or expired forms of identification.

    Three years ago, the agents caught three of the undercover investigators. This time, all of them made it through safely. In fact, some were never even asked for identification when they claimed they were U.S. citizens.

    This poses a national security question. This debacle shows that the issue is getting worse, not better. Part of it may be due to laziness; perhaps a healthy dose of ignorance is in the mix, too. Some forms of identification are harder to authenticate in the small amount of time agents look at them. However, passports and driver’s licenses are both the most common and the easiest to identify as forgeries.

    After funneling millions upon millions of dollars into the Department of Homeland Security and after being told about a glaring hole in national security, one would expect Customs and Border Patrol to clean up their act – and fast. Apparently, they didn’t.

    The information was presented to the Senate Finance Committee Aug. 2. The chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, told The New York Times, “”Those G.A.O. investigators could have been known criminals, wanted fugitives or even terrorists, but they were just waived into our country. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that there has been so little progress in plugging this gaping security hole.””

    Jayson Ahern, an assistant commissioner with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency, promised that the agency would take action. He mentioned providing additional training for agents in identifying forged documents.

    But one has to wonder if it really will happen, or if another audit in another three years will find the same results yet again.

    Since September 2001, the federal government has emphasized national security. Anyone who has been on an airplane since then knows the precautions taken in the air.

    The Transportation Security Agency was created, its agents highly visible in airports across the country. Illegal immigration opponents have jumped on the national security bandwagon as well, claiming it is a matter of national security to tighten the borders.

    But what about at our very own ports of entry? We generally take them for granted, assuming that the Border Patrol agents will catch them.

    One would expect Customs and Border Patrol to clean up their act – and fast. Apparently, they didn’t.

    In airports, we depend on our Customs agents to catch people with fake documents. These vital entry areas are overlooked by the American people under the assumption that they are protected.

    Sadly, we are proven wrong.

    As a border state, it is especially dangerous. Not only do we have immigrants illegally coming across our borders, but now we have the potential for criminals, terrorists or other dangerous people to cross as well.

    Granted, it is only a possibility that people cross that way, but it is a frightening thought, especially for border towns.

    Something needs to be done. Customs and Border Patrol need to address the problem.

    After sweeping it under the rug, it has come back to haunt them. This time, they need to get it right. If the bouncers at North can spot the fake IDs, then there is no reason why Customs and Border Patrol can’t.

    Janne Perona is a criminal justice administration junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search