INVASION USA: Mexicans Compromise High-Tech Security Visas
by Jim Kouri, CPP
United States immigration and State Department officials fear that their newly developed, high-tech visas are being sold on the Mexican black market. The US government hoped the newly designed visas would help in curtailing rampant illegal immigration at the Mexican border, but investigators believe many of them are being bought or rented by Mexicans seeking illegal entry into the US.
Well over 11,000 of these Laser Visas, issued to Mexicans for legitimate travel into the United States were reported stolen or "lost" in just two border cities in 2005. Government officials claim this is a 15 percent jump from 2004 figures.
The ATM card-sized documents, which include the legal holder's photograph and scanned fingerprints, were actually developed for use in 1998 hopefully to increase security and standardize documents used by Mexicans to cross the border since so many different types of documentation made the screening process cumbersome and confusing.
"While many may have been legitimately 'lost,' it seems probable that quite a few are either 'stolen' or 'reported stolen' in order to sell them," a U.S. consular official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
"There appears to be a healthy market for both buying and renting laser visas on the border," she added.
Mexicans call these visa cards "Micas," which allow bearers to cross into the US without other supporting documents. The card also allows them to travel up to 25 miles inside California or Texas and they may remain in the US up to 30 days.
According to figures provided by Reuters, 8,745 of the border crossing cards went astray last year in Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas, and 3,095 in Tijuana, opposite San Diego, California. No figures were available for other cities along the 2,000-mile border.
The problem got so bad that the US Embassy in Mexico City revamped its visa policy late last year, but did not inform anyone of the mounting problem. The embassy now replaces "lost" or stolen cards with stickers placed inside passports hope this will curb the illegal market of the laser cards.
The paradox is that in an effort to beef up security at the Mexican border using state-of-the-art technology, the US may have made it even easier to compromise that very security.
Also, the US is getting zero help from the Fox government in Mexico City during the course of investigations. While not speaking "on the record," off the record some US law enforcement people believe elements within the Mexican federal and local governments are assisting in the diversion of legitimate visas.
While US authorities say they possess no concrete evidence that organized Mexican human trafficking rings overseeing the illicit trade are using these cards, many security experts believe there are several organizations trafficking in this document.
But Tijuana police claim most of the stray visas are sold by cash-strapped holders to human traffickers in the gritty industrial city of 2 million people, on a widely used route for Mexican illegal immigrants headed for the Californian border.
Recently, seven illegal aliens from Mexico were arrested for allegedly operating a fraudulent document ring in Chicago's "Little Village" area. The organized crime enterprise generated approximately $2.5 million a year.
Found inside the residence was equipment used for making fake government documents, including: five high-speed computers, printers, ID card printers, scanners, laminating pouches, foil strips with security features, dozens of counterfeit identification cards, and other document-making paraphernalia. The estimated value of the seized items is approximately $10,000; the street value of the software is believed to be about $100,000.
Law enforcement commanders throughout the US believe that there are similar operations being conducted by Mexican organized crime cells. The Castorena crime family, a Mexican organized crime family that has controlled the majority of the fraudulent document manufacturing and sales trade in the US over the past 10 years, is believed to be trafficking in these new high-tech visas. Some even believe they are attempting to duplicate these cards.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.