Key Democrat tells Homeland Security to back off on new rules about employment of illegal workers

Since June the Bush Administration has sought to beef up surveillance of corporate hiring of illegal workers through more active use of “no match” findings for employee social security numbers. Homeland Security has just issued proposed regulations for a more aggressive approach. And, according to an article in the Washington Times, the Democratic Congressman due to chair the key House committee is yelling about it.
A Mississippi Democrat in line to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has warned the nation’s largest uniform supplier it faces criminal charges if it follows a White House proposal to recheck workers with mismatched Social Security numbers and fire those who cannot resolve the discrepancy in 60 days.
Rep. Bennie Thompson said in a letter to Cintas Corp. it could be charged with ‘illegal activities in violation of state and federal law’ if any of its 32,000 employees are terminated because they gave incorrect Social Security numbers to be hired. Cintas has issued letters to 400 employees in five states telling them they will be indefinitely suspended if they cannot resolve their mismatched Social Security number within 60 days.
As reported in the New Standard on 11/9,
Four years ago, Temple University researchers studied a pilot project that lets companies use databases from Homeland Security and the SSA to verify employment status. Those databases were found to reject one of every five properly documented applicants.

Some legal experts say firing workers based on no-match letters runs afoul of current law. Marielena Hincapié, program director at the National Immigration Law Center, said that because the final regulation has not been issued, employers who follow it could be sued for discrimination and unfair labor practices.
In June, President Bush proposed new guidelines concerning ‘no-match’ letters from the Social Security Administration, saying he wanted to make it easier for employers to verify workers’ eligibility and continue to hold them accountable for those they hire.
The Department of Homeland Security followed up on that announcement yesterday, formally releasing new regulations to help businesses comply with hiring requirements intended to reduce the hiring of illegal aliens — including setting guidelines for businesses when handling ‘no-match’ letters from the Social Security Administration.
The proposed regulation is subject to a 60-day public comment period.
‘Most businesses want to do the right thing when it comes to employing legal workers,’ said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. ‘These new regulations will give U.S. businesses the necessary tools to increase the likelihood that they are employing workers consistent with our laws.
‘They also help us to identify and prosecute employers who are blatantly abusing our immigration system.’
But Mr. Thompson called the ‘no-match’ letters a threat to workers who fail to reverify their information and called Cintas’ actions a ‘rash enactment of a proposed DHS regulation.’ He said that by implementing ‘this incomplete regulation,’ Cintas could be in violation of federal immigration law.
The seven-term congressman also said before the proposal becomes law, it must go through a rule-making process, ‘which could radically change the regulation or kill it all together.’
Under existing rules, when a Social Security number does not match a name on a tax or employment eligibility document, the government sends a ‘no-match’ letter asking that the discrepancy be resolved. Of 250 million wage reports the government receives each year, as many as 10 percent belong to employees whose names do not match their Social Security numbers.
‘I am deeply troubled by Cintas’ recent policy change regarding the Social Security Administration’s ‘no match’ letters,’ Mr. Thompson said in the Nov. 2 letter. ‘It is my understanding that hundreds of Cintas’ immigrant workers have received these letters. I am extremely concerned about any potentially discriminatory actions targeting this community.’