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Huntsman Administration Fails to Protect Children from Taxpayer Funded Identity Theft

 

May 25, 2007

 

Dear Governor Huntsman:

 

Just over a year ago, in a letter dated May 8, 2006, our organization, CitizensForTaxFairness.org, respectfully asked the Huntsman administration to (a) help protect Utah’s citizens and especially our children from identity theft which occurs when someone else uses another person’s social security number and (b) to ensure that taxpayer funds are not being used to hire illegal aliens. http://citizensfortaxfairness.org/x_oldnewsdetails.asp?id=16

 

Several months later, the importance of verifying social security numbers to protect our children was confirmed by the arrest of the self-proclaimed “King of Child Pornography”, Kirk Swearingen, in Salt Lake City.  That arrest came about after a landlord verified the social security number being used by Mr. Swearingen and found that it belonged to someone else.  www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060921/ai_n16752316/print

 

Unfortunately, the Huntsman administration has failed to protect Utah children from social security number only identity theft and continues to allow taxpayer funds to be used to hire illegal aliens and others using stolen identities.  In fact, during the 2007 legislative session, members of the Huntsman administration actively opposed efforts to address these very serious problems. 

 

In our 2006 letter, we requested that an executive order be issued to:

 

  1. Require the verification of social security numbers and eligibility to work in the United States for all of the state’s new hires by using the Basic Pilot Program.
  2. Require all contractors receiving taxpayer funds to use the Basic Pilot Program.
  3. Require all recipients of taxpayer funded economic development incentives to use the Basic Pilot program to verify social security numbers and eligibility to work in the United States.
  4. Require the state, its contractors and recipients of state economic incentives to refer individuals using a stolen social security numbers or other fraudulent documents to law enforcement for prosecution.

 

Our request was based on the results of an investigation conducted by federal and state officials that, according to an Attorney General’s press release, “uncovered an alarming new crime spree involving illegal aliens and identities stolen from victims under the age of 12.”  According to the Attorney General, "Identity thieves are no respecters of age. They will steal your children's ID, ruin their credit and hurt them in ways never thought possible before they can graduate from grade school.  Children are vulnerable even if parents do everything right."  http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/PrRel/prjuly152005.htm

 

The solution we proposed is the same one put forth by the Utah Attorney General’s office.  Attorney General Shurtleff said: “Employers can help [prevent identity theft] by being more vigilant during the hiring process and verifying an applicant's Social Security number.” www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20050716/ai_n14785381  and Assistant Attorney General Richard Hamp told a Utah House of Representatives legislative committee that employment verification would go a long way toward curbing identity theft.  www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060210/ai_n16064166

 

In response to our 2006 request, Jeff Herring, the state’s Executive Director of Human Resource Management advised us that the state was in the “analysis phase” of the SAVE or Employment Eligibility Verification Basic Pilot Program.  We found this to be an interesting response since a number of other state agencies already use the SAVE program with great success.  In fact, according to a senior Health Department official, the SAVE program actually reduces the time necessary to adjudicate certain claims and Workforce services uses it to successfully determine eligibility for federal benefits.  http://citizensfortaxfairness.org/x_subpage.asp?id=30

 

No response was ever received to our proposal that would have required state contractors and the recipients of economic development assistance to use the Basic Pilot Program in order to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to hire individuals using stolen identities.

 

However, in other states, governors did not hesitate to take steps to protect their citizens from identity theft and sexual predators.   For example, in September, 2006, the governor of Missouri directed all executive state agencies to implement the Basic Pilot program to verify employees’ identity and citizenship. http://gov.missouri.gov/press/I-9Process091906.htm.  Then, on December 13, 2006, the governor of Idaho adopted, by executive order, many of the items that CitizensForTaxFairness.org asked Utah to put in place over seven months earlier.  (For details of the Idaho program see: http://gov.idaho.gov/mediacenter/press/pr2006/prdec06/pr_149.html

 

In addition, Democrats and Republicans in Colorado came together to enact strict employment verification requirements, Georgia enacted a comprehensive immigration package including employment verification and Governor Brad Henry (D) just signed a comprehensive, bipartisan bill in Oklahoma that includes employment verification requirements.

 

Furthermore, governor Mitt Romney was steadfast in his efforts to ensure that taxpayer funds were not used to support or encourage illegal behavior.  He opposed, vetoed and defeated in-state tuition for illegal aliens, opposed drivers licenses for individuals illegally in the United States, requested a federal investigation of companies hiring illegal aliens, signed a memorandum of understanding to allow state troopers to enforce immigration law and stated his strong opposition to amnesty for individuals illegally in the United States.  Governor Romney told the Heritage Foundation that “I didn’t want to create any incentives to have people move to our country illegally.” http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/ev091405b.cfm

 

During the 2007 regular session of the Utah state legislature, a number of bills were introduced that were designed to protect children and their families from the devastating consequences of identity theft and to ensure that taxpayer funds are not used to hire sexual predators or individuals illegally in the United States.

 

Unfortunately, members of the Huntsman administration opposed those bills.  The taxpayer funded Office of Ethnic Affairs was especially active in its open opposition to bills designed to prevent identity theft committed by illegal aliens, sexual predators, deadbeat parents and many others.  In fact:

 

 

  • The Director of the Office of Ethnic Affairs directly lobbied, on taxpayer time, against identity theft bills designed to protect children who are citizens of the United States.  Her lobbying efforts were so egregious that:
    • Following a hearing on a bill designed to prevent taxpayer funds being used to hire individuals using social security numbers belonging to Utah children, Representative Stephen Sandstrom (R) told the Deseret Morning News, “The thing that outrages me the most is the state Office of Ethnic Affairs torpedoes (sic) this bill.” http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,660197142,00.html. 
    • Members of the House and Senate brought the Ethnic Affairs Director’s inappropriate actions to the attention of Palmer DePaulis, Executive Director, Utah Department of Community and Culture.
    • House leadership was reported to have expressed concern about the use of the taxpayer funded web site to oppose identity theft and document fraud bills.
    • Legislators included a review of the Office of Ethnic Affairs on the Master Study List.

 

In addition to the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Director of the Utah Division of Purchasing weighed in against Representative Sandstrom’s bill that would have required contractors receiving taxpayer funds and the recipients of economic development incentives to verify the identity of new hires in order to prevent identity theft and document fraud. 

 

In an e-mail to the chairman of the committee hearing the Sandstrom bill, the Director of the Utah Division of Purchasing put forth his concerns about the bill.  Interestingly, his first concern was not for the victims of identity theft nor was it for the victims of sexual predators who were using stolen social security numbers to hide their true identities or even for preventing taxpayer funds from being used to hire illegal aliens.  Rather, his first concern was that:

 

Potential suppliers/contractors will withdraw from doing business with the state because of the requirement of subscribing to this “voluntary federal program”.  The state will lose because of the reduction in competition. http://citizensfortaxfairness.org/x_subpage.asp?id=30

 

Apparently, maintaining a large pool of bidders is more important than following the Attorney General’s recommendations for protecting Utah children from identity theft or for insuring that taxpayer funds are not used to hire illegal aliens or sexual predators using fraudulent documents.   

 

Also during the session, Representative Glenn Donnelson (R) and other legislators focused on the negative impact of legislation that grants in-state tuition to illegal aliens.  When Representative Donnelson put forth a bill to end in-state tuition for illegal aliens, he very accurately noted that these individuals cannot legally work in the United States either before or after graduation from college.

 

Representative Donnelson’s position on in-state tuition is fully consistent with that of Mitt Romney’s.  The Donnelson bill was specifically designed to avoid rewarding and encouraging document fraud and identity theft since the only way a student illegally in the United States can get a job with a reputable employer in order earn money for tuition and living expenses is to obtain fraudulent documents, falsify an I-9 under the penalty of perjury and possibly commit identity theft, all felonies. 

 

Furthermore, an individual illegally in the United States cannot work in the United States after graduating from college unless she is willing to commit multiple felonies (document fraud, perjury, identity theft) in order to get a job with a reputable employer.

 

When members of the full House became aware of the criminal issues associated with in-state tuition for illegal aliens, they came within one vote of abolishing the program in spite of early veto threats from the governor and strong opposition from some members of the administration and the Alliance for Unity.  The Office of Ethnic Affairs opposed the bill and its “Fact Sheet,” which totally ignores the problem of identity theft and ineligibility to work, is still on the taxpayer funded state website. 

 

Representative Karen Morgan’s (D) apparently non-controversial bill to enhance the penalties for document fraud showed up on the Office of Ethnic Affairs watch list in spite of the fact that Representative Morgan provided House members with information from Workforce Services showing that 1,626 companies reported paying wages to the social security numbers belonging to children under the age of 12 and that one child had his/her number being used by 37 people.

 

We are, therefore, deeply disappointed that while Massachusetts, Idaho, Missouri, Colorado, Georgia, Oklahoma and other states were taking steps to protect their most vulnerable citizens that  members of the current administration were using taxpayer funds to defeat bills that would have protected our children from identity theft and sexual predators.

 

As Davis County Commissioner, Louenda Downs recently stated, “We are the keepers of the children and as such we hold the future of generations untold…. but if we neglect or abuse our own, our charges, even our little ones, in the end, we fail miserably…

When you lose sight of your values and your responsibility to those you should value, you invite your own demise….We are the keepers of the children...they need our voice, our help, our trust.”

 

We, therefore, once again request the Huntsman administration to implement the proposals found in our 2006 letter in order to protect our children from those who, once again in the words of the Attorney General, would “hurt our children in ways never thought possible before they can graduate from grade school.”  We would also strongly recommend that the Office of Ethnic Affairs undertake an aggressive effort to educate the estimated 100,000 illegal aliens in Utah that document fraud and identity theft are serious felonies rather than opposing efforts to stop these crimes.

 

We would also note that the current effort by the United States Senate to address illegal immigration does not eliminate the need for the Huntsman administration to take immediate action.  Even if the Senate bill passed tomorrow, illegal aliens would continue to use stolen identities and fraudulent documents for an extended period and during that time still more Utahans would have their identities stolen and the damage done to your constituents’ credit histories will continue to mount.  In addition, the Senate bill does nothing to stop sexual predators from using fraudulent documents in order to get jobs that will allow them to get closer to our children.

 

Please keep sight of your responsibility to those you should value most - the innocent American children that you have been elected to serve and protect.  Issue an executive order now to help protect these American children and their families from the “crime spree involving illegal aliens and identities stolen from victims under the age of 12.”  Protect our children from individuals using fraudulent documents to get close to them so they can sexually abuse them or otherwise harm them.  And please, support legislators who are working to make sure that we never fail our little ones.  

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

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