False Social Security Numbers Used by Undocumented Workers
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Most illegal immigrants who succeed in crossing the borders into the United States quickly begin looking for a job upon their arrival. For many, the journey to the U.S. was most likely difficult and expensive.
Immigrants may have resorted to borrowing money from family or friends to pay for their expenses. Many times immigrants who arrive to the United States are looking for a means to support themselves or even send money home to their family. As such, many are desperate for an income and are not picky about their occupation or even working conditions. Undocumented immigrants often do not expect or care about job benefits and will take on very low paying jobs. Since their number one concern is gaining an income, they may often take on two jobs. The skills of undocumented immigrants may vary and some may even hold college degrees. A significant percentage of illegal immigrants are not fluent in English. Because of their illegal status and non-fluency, many immigrants know they do not have the luxury of being able to pick and choose their occupation. Undocumented immigrants often find work in the service industry or work in the fields. Others find work in the construction industry or in factories. Some employers will refuse to hire immigrants if they cannot provide valid documentation while other employers willingly hire illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of their illegal status and offer inhumane working conditions and salaries well below minimum wage. Many remark that it is not difficult for an
illegal immigrant to attain a counterfeit Social Security card or permanent residency card. This is especially true for communities with high immigrant populations, where chances are that someone knows someone who can get a hold of these types of documents. Generally, the higher the price for the counterfeit documentation the higher the quality will be. While most of the counterfeits can easily be identified as they are poor quality, many employers will intentionally overlook this.
Employers are required by law to hire only individuals who are legally in the United States. Even though this law exists, however, employers continue to hire illegal immigrants due to weak enforcement. In many places there is a shortage of Americans willing to do certain minimum wage jobs. Therefore, when illegal immigrants are more than willing to take these jobs, employers may be tempted to look the other way if an individual is not able to furnish the required “legal” documents to work. Since Congress has not been able to pass immigration reform bills the Department of Homeland Security (or DHS) is looking at other ways to punish employers. The idea is that by imposing severe penalties on employers they will be forced to stop hiring illegal immigrants. Many employers accept false social security cards and permanent residency cards as “proof” that the individual can legally work in the United States. The Social Security Administration or SSA is responsible for the processing of annual employee wage reports and they do so for more than 250 million employees. The reports help the SSA determine future employee benefits like disability, survivor payments, and social security. The agency comes across many employees who have mismatched social security numbers. This means that the social security number provided by the company does not match up with the name and social security number that the administration has in their records. The mismatches often occur due to clerical errors and name changes. Last year the Social Security Administration found there were nearly 8 million mismatches. This figure represents about 4% of the total reports processed.
The DHS secretary recently proposed a new rule that would lead to increased security efforts. For mismatches in social security numbers, the company would receive a no-match letter and would be given 30 days to investigate. If the company found no clerical error, than the employee would be given the opportunity to prove the information provided was accurate. The employee, if needed, would have to contact the SSA to make any corrections. The secretary proposed that after the no-match letter was received there would be a 90 day period to make corrections. If the employee failed to prove they were lawfully authorized to work in the United States within the 90 days, the employer would be mandated to terminate the employee. Advocates of this proposed rule believe that about 90% of the million mismatches are illegal immigrants. If passed, this legislation would punish employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and enforcement efforts would be increased. This would result in less illegal immigrants being hired which may discourage immigration to the United States. For those presently in the U.S. it may encourage them to return to their homeland since finding a job would become more difficult. In addition, the rule would be beneficial to employers who have some kind of inconsistency when it comes to their social security number. They would be able to clear up problems now rather than in the future when trying to obtain benefits. Opponents of the proposed rule cite disbelief that 90% of the social security number mismatches are illegal immigrants, and feel that the figure is definitely over inflated. Critics also feel that the legislation would result in a high number of legal residents and even citizens being fired by employers. Recently a federal judge blocked this rule from being implemented stating it would bring numerous problems and hurt many who are legally working in the United States. However, it is speculated that under the new Obama administration, legislation on immigration will undoubtedly be brought before Congress.