March 21, 2008

Homeland Security Department’s Employer Sanctions Rule Continues To Rely On Flawed Social Security Database

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (917) 892-9180 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today reissued a "no match" rule with no substantial changes that would continue to put American and other authorized workers at risk of losing their jobs. If the newly released DHS rule were to take effect, it would still improperly use social security records for immigration enforcement.

The reissued rule fails to substantively change the original rule that was blocked last October when a federal court found that it would cause irreparable harm to both innocent workers and employers. Instead, it unsuccessfully attempts to explain away the inherent problems caused by relying on the deeply flawed Social Security Administration database to verify legal authorization to work.

The day after Thanksgiving last year, DHS requested that the court put on hold a lawsuit brought by several civil rights and labor groups challenging the original rule until March 2008 while it prepared a revised rule that DHS claimed would pass legal muster. However, according to the coalition, the rule released today does no such thing.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and labor groups to block the "no match" rule which would require employers to penalize or fire U.S. citizens and legal workers whose social security numbers don't match up with the information in the Social Security Administration (SSA) database. The lawsuit charges that the SSA database is fundamentally flawed and error-prone, and that the rule would result in the firing of countless legal workers as well as discrimination against those who look or sound "foreign."

The SSA's own Inspector General found that more than 70% of the discrepancies in the SSA database that could generate a no-match letter belong to native-born U.S. citizens. Discrepancies between workers' social security numbers and SSA records can result from many innocent factors including clerical errors, name changes due to marriage or divorce, or the common use of multiple surnames.

The statements below can be attributed to the following participants in the lawsuit:

Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and one of the attorneys in the lawsuit:
"The so-called supplemental publication changes not a single word or comma in the proposed rule. This is a desperate attempt to justify a fundamentally flawed database without actually fixing any problems. It's a Rube Goldberg approach that tries to paper over the fundamental flaws in the social security database. This rule is a de facto Bush Administration tax increase on small businesses that perversely puts the highest costs on those with greatest number of American workers. Rather than penalizing American workers who will be the innocent victims of database errors, the Administration should protect all workers against discrimination and exploitation."

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO:
"This rule does nothing to address the corporate abuses of undocumented workers that are driving down wages and standards for all workers. If the Bush administration really wants to control illegal immigration, it should start by requiring that all companies pay legal wages and abide by our labor laws."

Marielena Hincapié, Staff Attorney and Director of Programs at NILC:
“DHS has issued a treatise trying to rationalize a policy that will strip millions of workers from their jobs as a result of the inaccuracies in the government databases and this ill-conceived rule. Rather than addressing the underlying problems, the Administration is simply re-packaging the same old flawed rule which is anti-worker and anti-immigrant. Good employers will lose out at a time when our economy can't sustain further job loss, while bad employers are getting more cover to hire and exploit undocumented workers, and thereby undermining all workers' rights."

The government's revised "no match" rule is available online at:
www.aclu.org/immigrants/workplace/34587res20080321.html

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