With the Nov. 30 deadline approaching for seasonal farm workers to apply for a permit to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, there has been a dramatic increase in the selling of fraudulent documents to aliens, immigration officials said Tuesday.
In addition, they told a Los Angeles news conference, some street vendors who have been selling the phony documents have also been trafficking in cocaine.
Harold Ezell, the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Western regional commissioner, said about 130,000 of 470,000 applications received in the region this year under the Special Agricultural Worker program "are suspect" because they apparently include questionable documentation.
Ernest Gustafson, who directs the agency's Los Angeles office, said people selling phony documents for up to $800 a package "are crooks on the street that have a cottage industry."
A top INS investigator, John Brechtel, said the sale of cocaine by the document vendors is a phenomenon that has surfaced in recent months. In the latest incident, he said, an undercover INS agent last Friday purchased $8,000 in cocaine from a man also selling phony documentation to aliens on a street corner in downtown Los Angeles. "This is a big business," he said.