Sterling, Va. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a man at Washington-Dulles International Airport on Saturday for allegedly posing as a U.S. citizen to illegally obtain a passport.
According to court documents, officers arrested Efrain Alvarez-Benites, 23, after he arrived from San Salvador, El Salvador, and presented a U.S. passport to CBP officers. The passport showed him to be a 24-year-old male born in Puerto Rico. The documents appeared to be legitimate identity documents, but CBP officers remained suspicious and referred Alvarez-Benites for further inspection.
During routine questioning, Alvarez-Benites allegedly claimed to have lived in Puerto Rico since birth, yet was unable to answer officers' basic questions about Puerto Rico. Court records show that CBP officers detected several additional discrepancies during the interview that led officers to believe Alvarez-Benites was an impostor.
According to court documents, he later admitted that he purchased a Puerto Rican birth certificate and U.S. Social Security card, which he used to apply for a U.S. passport. The passport contained the traveler's photograph but did not bear his genuine biographical information.
"There are many layers when it comes to enforcing the law," said Christopher Hess, CBP Port Director for the port of Washington, D.C. "Even travelers who obtain a legitimate U.S. passport through fraudulent means must face Customs and Border Protection officers who are trained to detect those who are not who they purport to be."
CBP officers determined that Alvarez-Benites was inadmissible to the United States for violating the Immigration and Nationality Act. Further, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia is prosecuting Alvarez-Benites for immigration fraud.
Violators of U.S. immigration law are barred from revisiting the United States for a period of no less than five years.
"The presentation of a U.S. passport does not exempt a person from inspection," said Hess. "Sometimes we have to take a closer look, and the instincts of these Customs and Border Protection officers proved correct."
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect on June 1, 2009 and requires U.S. citizens to present a valid passport when entering the United States by air. Foreign nationals are required to present a valid passport and appropriate travel visa for entry into the United States.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act which made Puerto Rico a U.S. territory and granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.