The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), in a recent press release, praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent unanimous decision that, in effect, ruled that the federal aggravated identity theft statute may not be used against many undocumented workers who used false social security numbers to get jobs. The case was Flores-Figueroa v. United States.

Coincidentally, the Court’s decision came just shy of May 12, 2009, the one-year anniversary of the largest ICE worksite enforcement operation in U.S. history, which resulted in the criminal conviction of nearly 300 undocumented workers who had been arrested at the Agriprocessors meat packing facility in Postville, Iowa. Those workers were subjected to a fast-track conviction-deportation process at the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, Iowa.

“The workers were penned in like cattle awaiting slaughter while the government brazenly threatened them with prosecution under the federal aggravated identity theft statute which carries a two-year mandatory minimum prison sentence,” said David W. Leopold, first vice president of AILA. “The federal prosecutors used an overzealous and, as the Supreme Court unanimously concluded, plainly erroneous interpretation of that statute to coerce the workers, most of whom were uneducated Guatemalan farmers, into pleading guilty to a lesser charge and a five-month prison sentence in addition to accepting automatic deportation.”

In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, AILA believes that Attorney General Erik Holder must act quickly to remove the stain these prosecutions have left on our judicial system. “He should order a full investigation, including a review of the facts of each defendant's case, with an eye on dismissing the charges against those workers for whom the threat of prosecution under the federal identity statute was a miscarriage of justice,” concluded Leopold.