FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bosses Take Aim at the Undocumented

Employers using Social Security data to target and dismiss immigrant workers in view of proposed changes to government regulations–and if the rules formally take effect, millions of workers’ jobs could be at risk.

The regulations would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversight of Social Security Administration (SSA) “no match” letters–notifications sent to employers pointing out discrepancies between the Social Security numbers used by workers and those on file with the SSA. If workers’ Social Security numbers don’t match SSA files, and the workers can’t file the required documents in time, employers would be compelled to terminate them.

“The SSA no-match issue is yet another consequence of the framing of the legislative debate around a ‘broken immigration system,’ that needs a ‘national security’ fix and a corporate fix,” observed Ana Avendaño, who heads immigration policy at the AFL-CIO. “That has inspired DHS to offer quick fixes both to save face and to give the Administration an easy victory.”

What’s more, she said, “the proposed no-match rules just give employers an even more powerful weapon to use against workers. With the new rule in hand, during organizing campaigns, for example, employers will no doubt argue that it was the SSA rule that caused them to question workers’ immigration status, not the fact that workers were organizing.”

In the past, employers were explicitly prohibited from using Social Security no-match letters as an indication of workers’ immigration status. Labor lawyers and immigrant rights activists often succeeded in forcing employers to back down when they fired workers in relation to no-match letters.

But under rules proposed by the DHS in June, employers would be forced to do the opposite–proceed on the assumption that a no-match letter is evidence that an employee is unauthorized to work, unless and until proven otherwise.

Moreover, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities would consider a no-match letter to be an indication employers had “constructive knowledge” that “unauthorized” employees were on the job–in other words, that management knowingly hired undocumented workers, which would result in fines and other penalties.

“Employers are potentially going to be liable for violating immigration law,” Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center, said of the proposed rule change. “They are going to be overcautious and likely discriminate against those who look or sound foreign.”

Although it isn’t clear when or even if the proposed rule change will go into effect, some employers are acting as if the rule is already in place.

One is Apple Illinois LLC, the operator of 35 Illinois franchises of the Applebee’s restaurant chain. After receiving SSA no-match letters regarding two employees at different restaurants in the Chicago suburbs, the company dismissed the two men.

The employees, Juan Oropez and Jorge López, worked with the Chicago Workers Collaborative to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing the company of discrimination.

According to attorney Chris Williams, who volunteers with the Chicago Workers Collaborative, Apple Illinois LLC routinely restricts Latinos to kitchen jobs–and in the case of Oropez and López, paid them by the hour when, as managers, they should have been paid at a higher salary.

Now comes the use of Social Security no-match letters as justification for terminating the two men–a foretaste, Williams said, of what will take place everywhere should the proposed DHS rules take effect. “What this proposes to do is make employers immigration [agents], plain and simple,” Williams said.

The process has already begun, with top corporate employment firms already advising their clients that they can–and should–regard no-match letters as an indication that an employee is unauthorized to work.

Whether or not the regulation is ever implemented, “it appears to us that ICE will expect that employers take immediate steps to address these mismatch letters,” the Milwaukee law firm Michael Best & Friedrich noted in a newsletter. “Employers should revisit how they are addressing mismatch letters in order to ensure that they limit the possibility of liability for knowingly hiring or retaining employees that are referenced in mismatch letters.”

According to Williams, this policy has been given the green light by DHS officials even without the formal implementation of the rule. “DHS is operating outside the law,” he said.

This murky situation–a kind of voluntary corporate compliance with a rule that doesn’t yet formally exist–reflects the contradictions of immigrant labor in the U.S. It’s one thing for an Applebee’s franchise to fire a small number of workers; it’s quite another for a major employer of immigrant labor like Tyson Foods to dismiss workers in connection with Social Security no-match letters.

“That’s why [companies that employ immigrant workers] are pushing so hard for a guest-worker program,” said Christopher Punongbayan, advocacy director of Filipinos for Affirmative Action, which is among the many immigrant rights groups organizing against the new rule on no-match letters. “If it were suddenly enforced on them that they can’t employ undocumented workers, then all their operations would grind to a halt. So they want to ensure that their current workers who are out of status can stay employed there.”

Labor and immigrant rights groups are stepping up their campaign against the proposed no-match rule and plan to pressure employers who use the letter to fire workers.

“We are not convinced that DHS has the legal authority to issue such a regulation and are exploring various avenues, including a possible legal challenge,” said Avendaño of the AFL-CIO. “We are working with local immigrant rights groups and worker centers to identify employers who misuse the [no-match] letter and will launch campaigns to hold those employers accountable.”

LEE SUSTAR is a regular contributor to CounterPunch and the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: lsustar@ameritech.net

 

 

More articles by:

LEE SUSTAR is the labor editor of Socialist Worker

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail