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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

NY TIMES: FIX THE DATABASE FIRST

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The NY Times has an excellent editorial this morning discussing an issue I've raised many times before - the flawed databases that are the backbone of the E-Verify and Social Security No-Match systems. While the case for using the systems is logical, the assumption has to always be that the systems actually are accurate. And therein lies the problem. If millions of legal workers - many of them US citizens - are falsely identified as being illegally in the US, we've got a problem. If the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security had the resources to actually clear up discrepancies in a timely manner, a small false positive rate would be acceptable. But they don't. Today they only have to deal with a small number of people trying to make corrections and it can take months to solve the problem. Now multiply this group by 2000% or so.



I have mentioned a simple solution to this that will allow both E-Verify and the No-Match rule to expand like the government is hoping. When a worker lodges a protest with SSA or DHS that the system has falsely labeled them as unauthorized, then that the worker should be authorized to continue working until DHS or SSA actually gets to the bottom of the error. In other words, put the burden back on the government to actually deal with the mess they most likely created.



Some may be concerned that illegal workers would use this as an opportunity to continue working illegally. However, the reality is that when an employer alerts an employee to a discrepancy, the illegally present worker almost always takes off. The odds of an illegal worker going to DHS or the SSA to try and lodge a protest - and risking being picked up and deported - are pretty remote.

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  1. Another voice's Avatar
    "Some may be concerned that illegal workers would use this as an opportunity to continue working illegally. However, the reality is that when an employer alerts an employee to a discrepancy, the illegally present worker almost always takes off. The odds of an illegal worker going to DHS or the SSA to try and lodge a protest - and risking being picked up and deported - are pretty remote."

    Yup and companies will spend a lot of time and money with the huge turnover this will cause as these immigrants will move from job to job until they have to find another one to support their families.
  2. hmm's Avatar
    For example, the employee flagged by a No-Match rule could be required to mail/bring to SSA a photocopy of the document his work authorization is based on (birth certificate, green card etc), and SSA would issue a receipt. The receipt number would be entered in e-verify and the worker would be okayed to work. Then SSA would investigate.

    But of course this is too much work for the government.
  3. Ren's Avatar
    This exactly fits "putting perfume on a turd". System is completely whacked in the first place and then they are trying to cover it up by introducing whacky and un-tested programs.
  4. charbucks's Avatar
    I had heard about a 7 day grace rule for filing your AOS. I mean if the cutoff date is 1/1/04 and your PD falls between 1/1/04 and 1/7/04 you can still file. Is that true?
    I am currently in that situation, so was wondering if you knew.

    Thanks
    -charbucks
  5. EB3's Avatar
    The naturalized citizen problem is going to be solved, absolutely, within weeks. That talking point will be obliterated.
  6. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    EB3 - Do you even understand why the naturalized citizen problem exists? I doubt it. I'll explain to readers if you don't, but if you are so sure, please tell readers why the problem exists and how it is possible to fix a problem within 30 days that DHS has known about for several years and has only made slow progress in fixing.
  7. Jack's Avatar
    'Imagine that we end up with an airtight workplace verification system built on a perfect database -- but without a path to legalization. In that world, an honest company that learns it has undocumented workers has the unhappy choice of firing them or taking them off the books. How many would choose option B?'

    Or, to ease the transition to up and up hiring, you could let current illegal employees stay on for the time being but all new hires have to be legal or else hirers face stiff penalties. The date probably should not be announced prior to implementation lest you create a rush of illegal hiring before a cutoff date. There are all kinds of creative options, not just deportation OR amnesty/pathway. Besides the increasingly mentioned 'attrition' there are benign neglect and quasi-legal status. Politically, a quasi-legal status would have a better chance than amnesty/pathway because it would be perceived as tolerant but not as a full scale reward for unlawfulness. At the very least it would be perceived as tougher than 'amnesty plus window dressing'. It would eliminate the perceived sucker's bet of granting basically irreversible amnesty in exchange for a dubious promise of highly reversible enforcement. Things would have to start getting a lot tighter than half a million+ annual illegal immigration before any permanent amnesties or pathways could even hit the table.
    An analogy is a corrupt sports league wanting to move on from a sleazy steroid era. Just as you can agree not to punish teams for past wrongs but requiring drug testing going forward, hirers could get conditional immunity from prosecution for past illegal hiring but be required to verify going forward.
  8. Ali's Avatar
    As I have explained before to Mr. Siskind, most of the "errors" in the database likely come from clerical errors from the employer, failures to update information such as change of name on marriage, and out and out fraud. Internal checks for entry errors committed by government can be checked against the source documents provided by employers and employees. The no match letters are sent when there are discrepancies between the source documents and the Social Security name and number issue to the worker.
  9. Ali's Avatar
    "Yup and companies will spend a lot of time and money with the huge turnover this will cause as these immigrants will move from job to job until they have to find another one to support their families."

    Yup, illegal aliens will keep moving and will find it harder and harder to find employers willing to hire them and take a chance on being penalized. Companies have been receiving no match letters for years and should have a pretty good idea how "dependent" they are on illegal alien labor--and should prepare a contingency plan, such as more careful scrutiny of new hires.
  10. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Ali - That's simply not true and I would suggest you read the Westat report DHS commissioned.
  11. Kevin's Avatar
    This argument is "that we can't base enforcement on a flawed database until it is cleaned up" is a new definition of chutzpah. The old one was about the boy who murdered both his parents and asked the judge for mercy because he was an orphan. This is the same thing: Claiming that it is unfair to be held accountable for a situation that one created by one's own actions.

    The Social Security Administration has been sending out the "no match letters" since 1994, not as an immigration enforcement action, but simply to clean up the database and get legal workers the benefits they were due. The employers ignored them (thss hurting their legal workers who were deprived of the SS benefits) in order to avoid knowing if their workers were illegal immigrants.

    Anyone who is legally entitled to work but is terminated because they are not able to clean up the paperwork in time should have started the process years earlier. Why didn't their emploers warn them to get started years ago when the employers received previous "no match letters"? Either the worker was negligent or the employer intentionally harmed the employee. If it is the employer's negligence, the employee should demand the lost wages. Millions of legal workers will now be given the SS benefits that they qualify for.

    As for the net job losses for legal workers -- it won't happen. Millions of jobs vacated by illegals will now be available to unemployed, discouraged, or underemployed workers who are entitled to them. And they will get them at higher wages!

    These workers will get the higher wages determined by the US labor market. Their employers will no longer get the benefit of lower wages. The employers only believe in free markets when it works in their favor. Otherwise those hypocrites hate it.

    Yes, the illegals would have worked cheaper so the employers have an incentive to hire them. But when the activity is illegal, the proper word is MOTIVE, rather than incentive.
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