Politics & Policy

‘False Documents’

The Wall Street Journal wrote an unfortunate and misleading op-ed today on the new protocols on illegal immigration issued by the Department of Homeland Security — epitomized by the Journal’s weird sentence, “Mr. Kelly’s order is so sweeping that it could capture law-abiding immigrants whose only crime is using false documents to work.”

Only crime? (And what a string of oxymorons: “law-abiding”/“crime”/“false documents”!)

The WSJ should know that “false documents” are seldom used just “to work,” but are part and parcel of a continuous process of misleading or defrauding the system in nearly every transaction with government and private enterprise.

“False documents” do not imply a misspelled middle name or a day or two off the correct date of birth, or some sort of innocuous pseudonym. No, they involve the deliberate creation of a false identity, sometimes at the expense of a real person, and often with accompanying fraudulent Social Security numbers and photo identifications — crimes that both foul up the bureaucracy for law-abiding citizens, facilitate other crimes, and are the sort of felonies that most Americans would lose their jobs over and face either jail time or stiff fines. And often they are the second crimes — following not “law-abiding” behavior but the initial crime of entering and residing in the United States unlawfully.

The WSJ’s editors some time should wake up and find a wrecked car sitting on their property (that went off the road and airborne and did thousands of dollars of damage), the driver having fled and the registration on the abandoned vehicle proving to be a “false document,” or better yet, discovering that one’s check-routing number was printed on “false document” checks to facilitate theft of thousands of dollars, or having someone speed off after hitting your mailbox only to find from sheriffs that the license-plate numbers revealed a “false document” identity, or going to a market in the San Joaquin Valley while the person ahead of you tries four EBT cards in succession under “false document” names before one is found to have a positive balance, or waiting in line in a doctor’s office as the receptionist politely explains to the person ahead of you that the health card presented has a name that does not match the driver’s license presented. The use of “false documents” is not an end game or mere infraction, but rather the doorway to all sorts of subsequent falsification and fraud that does enormous damage both to the system in general and to individuals in particular.

As I wrote today, Americans are compassionate people and might well countenance allowing illegal-immigrant aliens without subsequent criminal records, but with a record of some years of established residence and a productive work history without dependence on social welfare, to pay a fine, apply for a green card, and become legalized residents — all the while maintaining residence in the U.S.

But the idea that illegal immigrants who assume false identities or lie on government documents thereby commit minor infractions is, well, outrageous.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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