- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A federal judge this week further obstructed President Bush’s efforts to finally enforce our immigration laws, claiming he needs more time to rule on a case questioning whether the integrity of the Social Security Administration should be maintained. The case involves a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union that seeks to block the Homeland Security Department from urging employers to verify their employees’ Social Security numbers promptly or face the risk of prosecution.

Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, on Monday extended a temporary restraining order that forbids Social Security authorities from sending employers so-called no-match letters. The 140,000 letters explain to an employer that an employee’s name and Social Security number do not match. The letters have been routinely sent out to employees since 1979 and to employers since 1994 at work sites with 11 or more no-match employees.

What’s different this year is that along with the no-match letter, Homeland Security is also including an insert notifying employers that they need to clear up discrepancies or be liable for punitive action — action that could include raids by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Homeland Security began enforcing the laws after Congress failed this summer to pass an immigration bill. All this latest effort does is ensure that U.S. employers are hiring and paying Americans and documented residents.

Critics claim increased enforcement measures will place undue financial burdens on employers, especially small business owners. This is a fallacious argument. Employers have to follow the law anyway if employees are to claim their benefits. Critics also maintain that the enforcement measures would create workplace discrimination against legal workers, especially Hispanics. This is simply not true. Social Security numbers are colorblind indicators, and all employers, regardless of race, should be positioned to prove the legal status of their workers.

Employee names fail to match their Social Security numbers for a host of reasons — everything from clerical errors to name changes and fraud. Legal employees who are paying into the Social Security system but because of honest mistakes are failing to receive credit for their work from the IRS, which provides the Social Security Administration with no-match data based on W-2 tax forms. This could have an averse impact on employees’ retirement, disability and survivors benefits. The court should let the three federal agencies carry out their duties.

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