Marines: Looking for a Few Good Aliens?

Recruiter on trial for selling IDs to enlist illegals

This week, a general court martial is to begin at Parris Island, South Carolina, for a U.S. Marine recruiter accused of selling and delivering counterfeit documents to illegal aliens in order for them to join the service.

Gunnery Sergeant Hubert A. Lucas, 35, is one of four suspects named in a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, part of which was obtained by the Voice.

The report says an investigation began on August 11, 2004, after an intelligence report by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency revealed that a Marine at Camp Pendleton in California, who had admitted to entering the United States illegally and enlisting with a counterfeit green card and stolen Social Security number, identified Lucas as the individual who charged her $250 for the documents for the purpose of effecting her fraudulent enlistment in the Marine Corps.

During an interview, the Marine told immigration authorities that she bought the counterfeit documents from people in New York City who told her they’d be delivered to a specific hotel in Miami and to await further instructions. Those eventual instructions were to enlist at the Marine recruiting sub-station in Perrine in Miami-Dade County, Florida. According to the report, the recruit also said she “engaged in a consensual sexual relationship” with Lucas. (One of the charges against Lucas is that he housed one or more prospective recruits in his personal quarters.)

Her accusations prompted a review of recruiting activity at the Perrine sub-station. According to the report, investigators found 23 recruits who may have fraudulently entered the Marine Corps. Twenty suspect alien registration numbers, along with Social Security numbers for all 23 recruits, were queried through federal databases. It turned out that every single one was “either completely fraudulent or assigned to a different person.” The investigation later identified three more alien recruits suspected of fraudulently enlisting.

The charges against Lucas span from late 2001 to mid-2004, and include fraudulent enlistment, conspiracy to commit fraud, and dereliction of duty. Potential sanctions include dishonorable discharge, several years’ jail time and forfeiture of pay, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.

Captain John Schwab, defense counsel for Lucas, was unable to comment for this article.

Investigators seem prepared to say this was simply a money-making scheme. “The facts seem to indicate that this was only a for-profit fraud case and it is being investigated as such,” said NCIS spokesman Ed Buice in an e-mail.

Lucas’s trial comes at time when the Army is having trouble meeting its recruiting goals, a shortfall generally attributed to the prolonged and bloody combat in Iraq. But unlike the Army, the Marine Corps reported that it has been exceeding its goals, enlisting 29,173 recruits between October 1, 2004, and August 31 of this year. At the Lucas sub-station, “productivity was about average,” said Master Sergeant Rhys Evans, a spokesperson for the Sixth Marine Corps District.

Legal permanent residents are allowed to serve in the armed forces, if they present a green card. It used to be that those cards, as with documents from native-born recruits, where vetted by the recruiter and a liaison from the local Military Entrance Processing Station, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.

But last year, after several cases surfaced of illegal aliens enlisting in the military using counterfeit documents, the Defense Department told the Military Entrance Processing Command to begin verifying alien registration and Social Security numbers with the appropriate federal authorities. This may mean that many illegal aliens who have enlisted since are case s of identify-theft.

There are currently about 37,500 foreign nationals from over 200 countries serving in the active duty forces and reserves . Seventy-one have died in Iraq and three in Afghanistan. The law currently provides for expediting the citizenship applications of U.S. service personnel, who become eligible to apply the first day they enlist. The presence of non-citizens in the U.S. armed forces dates back to the 18th century—“more than 660,000 military veterans became citizens through naturalization between 1862 and 2000,” according to a report by the nonprofit CNA Corporation.

Service by illegal immigrants is another matter entirely. The penalty for emerging from invisibility varies from case to case. Some have faced discharge and even deportation from the country they have sworn to defend.

Margaret Stock, an associate professor of law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, says she’s periodically consulted by attorneys representing illegal service members. “I do think there are probably a significant number of people in the military who had some issue with their immigration status at some point,” she said.

In a December 2003 article in Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, Stock wrote that the federal statute limiting enlistment to citizens and green card holders specifically states that this rule applies “in time of peace.” She cited section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which holds that "[a]n alien or a noncitizen national of the United States" who "has served honorably" in the armed forces during a "period which the President by Executive order shall designate as a period in which Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict . . . may be naturalized . . . whether or not he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence..."

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