You can’t call it what it is, so you call it what it isn’t.
The State of Kansas made it illegal to use someone else’s Social Security number. Kansas calls it identity theft, but it looks a lot like an attempt to enforce immigration laws, since most of the people caught up in the law are illegal immigrants who use fake Social Security numbers when applying for work.
But that’s a problem. A 1986 law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, puts immigration issues in federal jurisdiction, not state.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared divided over the legality of Kansas prosecuting three immigrants for violating identity theft laws by using other people’s Social Security numbers.
The Kansas Supreme Court voided the convictions of the three restaurant workers, but state prosecutors appealed.
The case tests how state criminal laws can be used against illegal immigrants and other people who do not have work authorization in the United States.
Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s four liberal justices in asking questions that voiced concern that the state’s pursuit of these cases effectively gave it a way to go after unauthorized workers, a role reserved for the federal government.
Other conservative justices appeared inclined to accept that the state’s prosecutions were not immigration-related (wink, wink).
Kansas has said the lower court’s ruling would undermine the state’s ability to combat identity theft. But immigrant rights groups said giving states power to prosecute employment fraud would let them take immigration policy into their own hands. Kansas is one of several conservative-leaning states that have sought to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Lawyers for the three men said that the federal government has the sole authority to prosecute individuals for providing fraudulent information during the I-9 employment verification process. The state said the men were prosecuted for the same false information that was placed on different forms used to withhold wages for tax purposes.
The state said in court papers that if the Kansas Supreme Court ruling is allowed to stand, “unauthorized aliens would enjoy a favored status, with immunity from state prosecution for violating criminal statutes that apply to everyone else.”