WH Champion of Change: False Social Security Number ‘Not Significant Enough to Be a Crime’

By Jon Street | March 22, 2013 | 1:25pm EDT

Claire Nelson, president of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. (Photo: White House.gov)

(CNSNews.com) – An advocate for U.S. immigration reform, who was recognized  by the Obama White House as a “Champion of Change,” said an illegal alien who uses a fake Social Security number to gain employment should not be prevented from becoming a U.S. citizen because the fraud is “not significant enough to be a crime.”

At a Capitol Hill rally for immigration reform on March 20, CNSNews.com asked Claire Nelson, founder and p­­resident for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies, the following:  “If I could just get your perspective on this question of an undocumented worker using a false Social Security number to gain employment while they’re here, would that person -- in your view --should that person be eligible to become a U.S. citizen, or should that person be able to become a U.S. citizen?”

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Nelson said, “You know, as I was standing here listening, I hadn’t actually thought about the question before. But having listened to the responses, I would also weigh on the side of restorative justice. I think that [a false Social Security number] alone, in and of itself, it is not significant enough to be a crime, say, a cause for a prison sentence.”

“If that person has been working, paying taxes, being an outstanding member of the community, I do believe that they should see an opportunity in the long run,” said Nelson. "I do think that the timeframe that we’re talking about -- 10 years for regular people ‘who are not undocumented’—they’re documented, they overstayed their visit, should be separated out from the undocumented who got here illegally in the first place. It’s a whole different question,” Nelson said.

“But if someone has been here 25, 30, 35, 40 years and have no other criminal altercation with the law, I do believe that the idea of some restoration -- I like the idea of community service so much because there are so many poor neighborhoods, rural neighborhoods in America right now who are crying out for more people to work, to live. We have to get this country back on its feet -- and we know, and I believe, that,” she said.

“During this process, we also have to be mindful of the need for a skill shift in America.,” said Nelson. “We are well aware that the need for unskilled labor is getting smaller and smaller. So all of this has to do with it. But overall, I would support a restorative-justice approach.”

“I believe that would be fair and that person should eventually, over some period of time, after a period of time, it would vary after some rule,” she continued. “It’s going to be a very complicated process. I’m very pleased that there’s been some measure taken right now to look at America now and where America will be let’s say, 30 years out, and make a decision as to how the process will be fair to both people who are here and to people who are waiting in their home countries patiently for five, 10, 15 years to be reunited with their families who are here legally already.”

The rally was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Churches United to Serve and Heal, the Black Institute, and the Black Immigration Network, and was followed by congressional office visits from the organizations’ leadership members, as well as a panel discussion for other citizen immigration reform activists.

The White House recognized Nelson in July 2012 as a “Champion of Change.”

CNSNews.com queried the White House by telephone and email for comment and asked whether they agreed with Nelson’s view that an illegal alien who used a fake Social Security number should be able to become a U.S. citizen, but the White House did not respond before this story was posted.

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