News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An immigration crackdown using Social Security numbers?

If the Bush administration gets its way, employers across the United States will receive written orders from the Department of Homeland security to investigate all employees whose Social Security numbers indicate they may be undocumented workers. The employers will have 90 days to verify an employee’s legal status. Any business that does not fire an employee with a questionable social security number after that time faces stiff fines and penalties.

This would seem a reasonable tool for uncovering undocumented workers - except for one important fact: The inspector general of the Social Security administration estimates that 17.8 million of the agency’s 435 million employee records contain errors that could accidentally flag an employee as an illegal worker. Most startling of all, 70% of those 17.8 million employees whose Social Security records show some type of glitch are native-born Americans.

That’s the reason a federal judge struck down the plan when it was proposed by the Department of Homeland Security last year. Now, the Bush administration is having the DHS propose essentially the same plan again. The AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union have already filed a lawsuit to prevent the proposed DHS action, claiming it will throw innocent employees out work, burden companies with unnecessary enforcement costs, and spawn a storm of discrimination lawsuits. Critics of this Bush initiative also point out it will do nothing to catch undocumented workers being paid “off the books” by unscrupulous businesses, a much more serious problem.

Unless Americans speak up, we face a costly and disruptive “solution” to the issue of illegal immigration. Using the Social Security databases to catch undocumented workers seems a cure that’s worse than the disease.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

1 comment:

sorabji said...

e-verify has really made it hard for my undocumented friends to work. You were way ahead of your time when you wrote this post.