San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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May 1st, 2008
"No-Match Regulation: Bad for Business"

What would you call a federal regulation that gives employers no choice but to fire workers if they are unable to resolve discrepancies over records kept by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the social security number submitted by an employee? The government calls it a “No-Match” regulation. But many Texas employers call it just plain extreme. By authorizing the “No-Match” regulation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) presumes employers are criminals unless they can demonstrate otherwise.

If employers cannot resolve a name or number discrepancy involving an employee in ninety-three days, they must terminate workers or face civil and criminal penalties for employing undocumented workers. Employers will spend billions of dollars during the coming years to interpret and comply with this new and draconian regulation.

In Texas, if you examine the previous years’ employment numbers and the SSA’s own estimates on faulty social security numbers, employers could be forced to seek protection from prosecution by terminating up to 750,000 workers.

The regulation was originally scheduled to take effect last September, but U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer blocked implementation finding that “the government’s proposal to disseminate ‘No-Match’ letters affecting more than 8 million workers will, under the mandated time line, result in the termination of employment to lawfully employed workers…” The judge also found that “if allowed to proceed, the mailing of no-match letters, accompanied by DHS’ guidance letter, would result in irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.”

DHS issued a rewritten regulation on March 26, but the end result remains the same. Discrepancies between workers’ names and social security numbers often result from clerical errors or name changes due to marriage or divorce. Because these types of errors have nothing to do with immigration or work authorization, an employer cannot assume that receipt of a “No-Match” letter implies anything about the employee’s legal status. In fact, of the estimated 17.8 million errors in SSA’s database, 12.7 million (or over seventy percent) pertain to native born U.S. citizens.

The new regulation also presents employers with a dilemma of threatened prosecution by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) versus lawsuits for potential violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protects all workers regardless of immigration status from discrimination in employment.

The Bush Administration claims the “No-Match” regulation will discourage future illegal immigration. In reality, it will jeopardize the employment of about ten percent of the legal workforce in the United States. Rather than treating employers as adversaries in the immigration debate, the Administration should view employers as partners in economic growth and job creation.

They should suspend the “No-Match” effort until alternative, more accurate, databases are in place and employers have an efficient way to correct data errors and to obtain status confirmation. The Bush Administration should be working to improve the economy instead of using a ridiculous regulation to make it impossible for businesses to operate and workers to work. It is vital that Congress stop “No-Match” before it goes through and replace it with a more effective and efficient solution.

Information provided by the Texas Association of Business and reprinted with permission.

Phyllis Snodgrass
President – San Marcos Chamber of Commerce

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