Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal


Anthony Rivera


There are over eight million undocumented immigrants in the United States who obtain employment by using false social security numbers. Although undocumented persons are eligible to file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code, undocumented immigrants file for bankruptcy at much lower rates than documented citizens. This is partly out of a fear that the use of a false social security number to obtain employment constitutes bankruptcy fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 152 and exposes the debtor to criminal liability. The author draws inspiration and builds on the work of Chrystin Ondersma and tells the story of a hypothetical undocumented debtor, “Christina,” to ultimately make the argument that the debtor’s use of a false social security number for employment purposes does not meet the elements needed for bankruptcy fraud. The author then closes by looking at the practical issues in encouraging undocumented immigrants to seek the benefits afforded to them under the Bankruptcy Code and how policy may be changed to better accommodate undocumented debtors.