Within the last two months, Miami International Airport immigration officials have arrested three foreign visitors for presenting forged documents and lying to immigration officers, according to Miami Federal Court documents.
On Feb. 28, a Venezuelan on a flight from Caracas was arrested after falsely claiming to be Cuban seeking refuge under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
On March 14, a Romanian arriving from Nicaragua lied to passport control officers when he claimed never to have been arrested or convicted when in fact he spent five years in prison in Spain for forging credit cards.
The next day, on March 15, a Nicaraguan arriving from Mexico was arrested because he carried a forged visa he had bought for $1,000 from a taxi driver in Mexico City.
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The cases are just three of the hundreds of similar cases Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers face every month at MIA and other international airports where arriving foreign travelers are often pulled from regular immigration lines to verify their admissibility into the United States.
“This procedure is part of our mission to prevent illegal aliens from coming into the country,” said Migdalia Arteaga, a CBP spokeswoman in Miami. “We’ve become so proficient [in spotting fake documents] that we train airlines around the world.”
Normally, if passport control officers have no suspicions or their computer screens do not show an alert, a traveler’s passport is quickly stamped and the person is allowed in without further delay.
But when officers have questions or spot a computer alert about passengers, they pull the travelers out of the regular immigration line and take them to an office known as secondary inspection.
The office is usually a crowded place where many travelers, whose records have been flagged, are waiting to be questioned again by a passport control officer.
Javier Orlando Crespo Gonzalez, who arrived Feb. 28 from Caracas, told MIA passport control officers he was a Cuban and that he wanted to stay in the United States under provisions of the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Under the Act, any person who can prove to immigration officers he or she is Cuban on arrival on U.S. soil is allowed to stay.
Crespo presented a Cuban birth certificate as proof of his claim to Cuban citizenship, according to a criminal complaint filed in Miami Federal Court.
“The defendant announced to the primary officer that he was requesting asylum under the Cuban Adjustment Status Act,” according to the complaint.
Crespo was taken out of the regular immigration line and sent to secondary inspection for further questioning.
At secondary, a check of Crespo’s immigration record indicated he was lying, the complaint said.
“After being referred to secondary, a records check indicated that … Crespo González had three (3) previous entries as a Venezuelan citizen into the United States and had completed a visa application in which he stated he was a national and citizen of Venezuela,” the criminal complaint said.
Under interrogation, Crespo acknowledged that the Cuban birth certificate he presented was fake.
“It had been created for him by a Cuban doctor with information that he provided to her,” the complaint said. It did not identify the doctor by name, but Venezuela is one of several countries to which the Cuban government has deployed thousands of doctors.
When airport officials went through the Venezuelan’s luggage, they found another counterfeit birth certificate in his father’s name, according to the complaint.
The Romanian, Dinu, landed at MIA on March 14 aboard an American Airlines flight from Managua, the Nicaraguan capital.
He produced a Romanian passport and a U.S. visa to a CBP passport control officer.
The officer sent Dinu to secondary where other officers discovered the Romanian had lied in his application for the U.S. visa.
“The application for a non-immigrant visa asks whether the applicant has ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty or other similar action,” the complaint said.
Dinu answered “no” to the question, but under questioning by CBP officers acknowledged that he had been previously arrested for making fraudulent credit cards in Spain, where he spent five years in prison.
Flabio Alejandro Irias Hernández, a Nicaraguan, presented a passport with a U.S. visa after he arrived at MIA on an American Airlines flight from Merida, Mexico, on March 15.
After Irias was escorted to secondary, he acknowledged to investigators that his visa was fake because he had bought it for $1,000 from a Mexican taxi driver.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy