- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

A immigration supervisor in the Washington district office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was charged yesterday with immigration fraud for issuing naturalized citizenship certificates to people who didn’t earn them.

Robert T. Schofield appeared in a federal court in Alexandria yesterday and awaited a bond hearing today. Court papers filed in support of search warrant applications said that at least 23 persons may have illegitimately obtained naturalization certificates from Mr. Schofield.

“This agency has zero tolerance for anyone who might betray the confidence of the American people by compromising the integrity of our immigration system,” said Emilio T. Gonzalez, director of USCIS. “This alleged behavior in no way represents the honor and ethics of the work force at USCIS. We will continue to cooperate fully with authorities in this ongoing investigation.”

A spokeswoman for USCIS said Mr. Schofield has worked for the agency since 1976 and was a first line supervisory adjudications officer. That means he oversaw other immigration adjudicators who rule on applications ranging from citizenship to companies seeking permission to import foreign workers.

It’s the second time this month a USCIS employee was arrested in a high-profile immigration scam. The FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York announced June 7 they had arrested Phillip A. Browne, a USCIS employee who conspired with his sister to sell green cards based on sham marriages.

Michael Maxwell, the former head of USCIS’s internal affairs division who resigned earlier this year, testified to Congress that supervisory employees operate with virtual impunity to grant immigration benefits to whomever they want, and the agency does not have a system of checks on them.

Asked about the arrest yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wouldn’t comment specifically.

“There’s a legal process, and for me to comment on an individual case would probably be viewed by a judge as an improper thing to do,” he said. But he said his department is “very serious about policing ourselves,” and said every federal agency has “a few bad apples.”

In the New York case, officials said green cards were sold for between $8,000 and $16,000. Congress is debating an immigration bill that would make illegal aliens eventually eligible for a green card if they pay a fine of $2,000.

That bill, which passed the Senate, would create a new program for future foreign workers and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who could show documents that prove they have been in the United States for a period of time. USCIS would be in charge of administering both programs.

Rosemary Jenks, government relations director at NumbersUSA and Mr. Maxwell’s lawyer, said the two cases show USCIS is vulnerable.

“We know there are terrorists and foreign intelligence services out there who are just waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of a corrupt USCIS employee, and they are more than happy to pay a bribe or extort the document, and yet the agency is still not consistently policing itself nor its employees,” she said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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