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Amid Trump's Smear Campaign Against Immigrants, Top ICE Lawyer Charged With Stealing Immigrants' IDs

As the Trump administration portays undocumented immigrants as criminals, agency's chief counsel is accused of stealing their personal information to commit fraud

Protesters outside ICE's headquarters in San Francisco last year called for an end to deportations by the agency. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr/cc)

As President Donald Trump and immigration authorities push forward a false, demeaning narrative portraying undocumented immigrants as criminals, a top attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been charged with stealing the identities of several people who were in immigration proceedings.

Raphael Sanchez resigned from his position as chief counsel for ICE in Seattle on Monday, in light of the charges. He is accused of stealing identifying information including Social Security numbers, names, and birth dates of seven immigrants in order to defraud credit card companies.

Court documents detail one of the cases of identity theft, in which Sanchez sent a message from his government email account to his personal email address with images of a Chinese immigrant's U.S. permanent resident card, passport, and utility bill.

Sanchez is being charged with one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of wire fraud, and is expected to enter a plea on Thursday in a U.S. district court.

The charges come as immigrants' rights advocates have denounced Trump's calls for more aggressive detention efforts by ICE. Arrests by the agency skyrocketed in 2017, with a 30 percent rise over the previous year.


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The president and his administration have repeatedly described the undocumented immigrant community as a criminal presence in the U.S. Trump released an ad last month accusing Democrats of "complicity" in murders committed by undocumented people, and on the campaign trail infamously described Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.

Contrary to Trump's rhetoric, numerous studies have found that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes in the U.S. than people who are born here. 

On social media, some Trump critics turned the president's own anti-immigrant rhetoric on Sanchez, while others saw the case as an indictment of ICE itself.

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