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Bountiful • Too many Utah children fall victim to identity theft at the hands of undocumented immigrants and the contentious immigration reform bill in Congress does nothing to curb the crime.

A group of Utah veterans made that claim Tuesday outside an American Legion hall, insisting tens of thousands of Utah minors have had their Social Security numbers usurped and their futures "ruined."

"True immigration reform must not, in fact it can not, ignore this problem," said Ron Mortensen, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and co-founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration. "These kids are just left in limbo — that's the danger."

The group called on Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, who both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee debating the bill, to include child protection measures and to establish a victims restitution office.

Utah parents, they say, are often shocked to learn that — at least on paper — their toddlers have arrest records, shoddy credit, a compromised medical profile and, in one case, simultaneous jobs in Wendover and Park City.

Mortensen said he recently discussed the subject with embattled Attorney General John Swallow. He praised the ease in reporting child identity theft but decried the inability to crack down on offenders.

"Americans are paying a huge price for government's benevolence and open-door policy," added Eric Hattabaugh, vice commander of Bountiful American Legion Post 79.

Gary Welch, a former Wyoming police chief wearing a black cowboy hat and black vest with a "Don't Tread on Me" patch, says he's seen the impact of illegal immigration up close. "Once we start E-verify," he said, "people will stop buying falsified Social Security numbers."

At Lee's request, the Judiciary Committee amended the federal legislation this week to ensure police could continue investigating immigrants who attempt to use fraudulent documents to get a job or enter the country.

Across the nation Tuesday, the Arizona-based Remember 1986 coalition organized dozens of similar news conferences advocating for "true immigration reform without a controversial amnesty element."