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INS Official Is Charged With Bribery In Farmworkers’ Amnesty

December 6, 1988

MIAMI (AP) _ A U.S. immigration official has been arrested for approving hundreds of fraudulent identity cards for farmworkers seeking amnesty in exchange for more than $250,000 in bribes, authorities said.

Joseph Gourgue, an adjudicator in the Hialeah legalization office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, accepted the money in exchange for processing 500 to 600 doctored identity cards under the Special Agricultural Workers amnesty program, according to an affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

″Unfortunately, the SAW program as enacted by Congress is highly vulnerable to fraud,″ said Perry Rivkind, INS district director. ″Most immigration officials and employees are hard-working, honest people. However, some may be motivated by greed along with a lack of integrity as in other professions.″

Gourgue was arrested Friday on a charge of bribery of a public official and was being held on $100,000 bond at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center.

According to the affidavit by INS special agent William H. Morris, Gourgue’s duties included approving or rejecting temporary work permits and residency cards under the program that offered amnesty for agricultural workers who are illegal immigrants.

The program, which expired Nov. 30, was part of the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1986. It was designed to make it easier for agricultural workers to become U.S. citizens.

″We had reason to suspect Gourgue of being involved in an unlawful scheme to approve SAW petitions knowing them to be fraudulently filed,″ the affidavit said.

INS clerk Yacenda Ambrose, who worked with Gourgue, revealed details of the scheme to INS agents on Sept. 27, the affidavit said. Ms. Ambrose, who was not accused of wrongdoing, told them she was paid $500 to $1,000 per week to assist Gourgue.

″She stated that he used her to create SAW identification cards for aliens who had not been properly adjudicated as eligible,″ the affidavit said.

″Gourgue claimed that he had so processed between 500 to 600 such applications for $500 cash payment apiece. He acknowledged that he paid Yacenda Ambrose to assist him,″ it said. The transactions took place between June 3 and Sept. 23.