NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A green card can be key to turning an immigrants dreams into reality but because the legal route can be difficult, many turn to the black market.
You can buy a lot on the streets in Jackson Heights, Queens, including fake green cards and other IDs.
All types of businesses are booming on Roosevelt Avenue, even the illegal ones. It's easy to get a Resident Alien card, better known as a green card, from street corner hustlers. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. The $300 version will not be as good as the $3,000 version.
I went to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Investigations to find out more about this. Special Agent in Charge Angel Melendez told me fake green cards and documents are part of a bigger problem.
"Our true concern are those people or those individuals that obtain these fake documents to continue to perpertract criminal activity and pose a threat to national security," Melendez says.
Melendez says technology advances have enabled forgers to make very realistic-looking fakes and that green cards are not used just to get work but also cash in on fraudulent welfare and even veterans benefits.
"With a green card there are certain benefits you can obtain. You can be able to open bank accounts and you can be able to gain lawful employment," Melendez says.
Homeland Security investigations works closely with local district attorneys, like Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. Last year, Vance indicted an English teacher who allegedly bilked foreign students of tens of thousands of dollars for promising green cards.
"If you find a person who has a fake document you need to report it to law enforcement," Melendez says.
A new bill is being considered by the state Assembly that would upgrade the charges for making or selling counterfeit documents to a C-class felony. It could become law later this year.