It is well-known that our immigration system is flawed and many foreign nationals and criminal organizations find ways to exploit loopholes in the system. In one such example, Laura Torres Romero, who has been in the country illegally for more than 30 years, orchestrated an extensive immigration fraud scheme targeting illegal aliens and other noncitizens looking to stay in the country and obtain work permits. Her business operated under many names within the Lake Worth, Fla. area. Through her operation, Torres amassed nearly $4 million, along with 15 homes and storefronts over a period of eight years.
Torres claimed to be an “experienced and knowledgeable immigration document preparer, who could assist them with identifying the proper immigration program to secure legal status.” Her clients were largely illegal aliens from Guatemala and Honduras who were ineligible for asylum. Some paid upwards of $4,000 for her services.
Not only did she shake clients down for cash, demanding more money once any permits arrived, but she would also steal their identities. Torres would urge her victims to obtain Social Security cards, then steal the identities of her clients and apply for food stamps and other benefits. She also instructed her clients to lie to immigration officials and make up stories of abuse in their homelands in order to apply for asylum.
This is not her first offense, either. According to prosecutors, Torres has lived a life full of fraud. Originally from Peru, Torres came to the U.S. in 1988 and filed for a green card under a different name. She obtained Social Security cards in both her real name and assumed name, which she had taken from her sister-in-law who still lives in Peru. Torres’ original scheme was filing bogus tax returns. She filed two tax returns under both names for seven years. She later did the same, using her late mother’s name and her brother’s name to file more bogus returns. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Torres filed more than 200 fraudulent tax returns, obtaining approximately $1.8 million in refunds.
It took the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more than two years to unravel her scheme. Torres now faces a maximum 15-year prison sentence and has pled guilty to three charges.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated situation. Many organized networks and individuals abuse loopholes in our immigration system, taking advantage of weak points and exploiting benefit programs. Document and benefit fraud leads to more crime and abuse, often used in commissioning other crimes like human smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, and financial and trade crimes.
The incoming Biden administration wants to do away with many of the policies which attempt to protect against fraud, implementing an “America Last” agenda. Even before the was elected, much less has a chance to implement his immigration policy agenda, there was a 300 percent increase in apprehensions at the southern border, rising from just over 17,000 in April to 70,000 in November. If he carries through on his proposed policies, we can expect a massive wave of migrants at our border attempting to enter illegally within the next few months.
Torres’ ability to get away with such massive fraud for so long is a consequence of an already overwhelmed system. The last thing our nation needs at this point are policies that further overwhelm our ability to prevent massive fraud. President-elect Biden should not be so eager to enact immigration policies that are certain to be seen as an invitation for increased abuse and crime.