Social Security 'No-Match' Crackdown Will Hurt Economy

By Terrence O'Sullivan; Stephen Sandherr | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

Social Security 'No-Match' Crackdown Will Hurt Economy


Terrence O'Sullivan; Stephen Sandherr, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Under a new federal directive, millions of workers whose Social Security numbers differ from government records will be threatened with dismissal. Employers who don't act within 90 days against those workers will face penalties, including heavy fines and possible prosecution.

That sounds good for those of us who believe in secure borders and respect for the law. But this enforcement-only focus on Social Security "no-matches" is an unrealistic approach that will severely disrupt our economy, hurting employers and workers.

Within months, it is estimated that 140,000 employers will receive Social Security no-match letters regarding 8.9 million workers. While these letters will force undocumented workers to leave jobs where they have been employed for years, they will not feel compelled to leave the country. Nor will national security be strengthened; the undocumented immigrants will not come forward and be identified. Rather, many workers already in the shadows of our economy will begin a cycle of musical chairs, moving from employer to employer until the next no-match letter arrives.

Few industries will be affected as significantly as the construction industry -- an engine of our economy, with more than 10 million workers driving 5 percent of our nation's economic output. An estimated 14 percent of those workers do not have legal status to work in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Without a realistic, comprehensive immigration policy that addresses the reality of undocumented workers who are here, the government-directed firings of millions of workers will destroy the ability of tens of thousands of employers to maintain stable operations.

As the no-match directive takes effect, numerous construction contractors will lose a significant share of their work force, sending shock waves through an economy that remains uncertain because of the continuing mortgage meltdown.

At the direction of unscrupulous contractors, many undocumented workers will operate as independent contractors to sidestep the Social Security no-match trap. …

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