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Thinking Ahead–Letter from Chaille: DHS to Get Tough on Employers; Is the Solution Worse than the Problem?
Starting in September, employers who receive a “no-match” letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) about an employee will have an established procedure to follow.
By Chaille M. Brindley
Date Posted: 9/1/2007
Tener cuidado para qué deseas. Or in English, “Be careful what you wish for.” That may just be the message for those who wanted the government to get tough on illegal immigration. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appears to be doing just that and it could cause ripples throughout the U.S. economy.
Finding workers may become more difficult, which could translate into more delays, higher prices and production inefficiencies. Because the U.S. forest products industry has become more dependent on Hispanic workers in recent years, it will likely be impacted one way or another.
While the new rules, policies and initiatives will not cripple the industry, it could cause problems for anyone who has knowingly or unknowingly hired illegals.
Here’s the gist of what DHS is planning to do.
Starting in September, employers who receive a “no-match” letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) about an employee will have an established procedure to follow, which includes terminating the employee if the problem is not able to be resolved. The regulation clarifies that employers may be held liable if they ignore the “no-match” problems by failing to take specified steps within 90 days of receiving the letter. For more detailed information, see the article on page 58.
This may be both good and bad depending on your perspective. Employers have disliked the ambiguity of existing procedures and have been concerned about opening themselves up to discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuits. Clearer procedures give businesses more tools while also reducing the legal ambiguity that some used to skirt the laws.
In the coming months, DHS will reduce the number of documents that employers can accept to confirm work eligibility requirements. DHS hopes that changing the requirements will reduce unlawful employment by weeding out insecure documents now used for identity fraud.
To encourage participation in the Basic Pilot verification system, which has been re-named E-Verify, the Bush administration will soon require all federal contractors and vendors to use E-Verify to check the status of all employees used to service government contracts. Since there are more than 200,000 companies doing business with the federal government, the move is aimed at increasing acceptance and use of the E-Verify system.
E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees by comparing the information with SSA and DHS databases. DHS claims that E-Verify is the best way to determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.
DHS is looking to bolster the information behind E-Verify by cross checking with visa and passport information. Also, the Bush administration intends to seek voluntary participation by states to access photographs and information held in state DMV databases. This might help E-Verify address its deficiency in detecting identity theft.
According to the new initiatives, the federal government will assist states in making use of E-Verify as well as train state and local law enforcement in how to identify and root out suspected illegal aliens.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “Our hope is that the key elements of the Senate bill will see the light of day at some point. But until Congress chooses to act, we’re going to be taking some energetic steps of our own.”
It is clear that the new policies are intended to partially address the problem while creating pressure on Congress to develop a more comprehensive solution.
Under Chertoff’s leadership, the DHS has been much more aggressive in terms of criminal enforcement. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made more than 3,200 administrative arrests this year.
Chertoff said, “We’re going to continue to clamp down on employers who knowingly and willfully violate the laws. But at the same time, we want to make sure that employers who do want to do the right thing have effective tools and clear guidance so they can maintain a stable, legal work force.”
Civil penalties have not really worked to deter bad actors. Some companies just view it as a part of doing business. The attitude starts to change though when business leaders hear about the possibility of going to jail.
Chertoff said, “Here’s what the real hammer is: If you went back six, seven, eight years ago, you saw a lot of administrative action, not much criminal action. We have totally turned that around now.”
The word “jail” has a way of getting people’s attention although the total enforcement capacity still lags way behind the need. DHS has announced that it is increasing the number of agents and beds at detention facilities, improving border detection and deterrence capabilities, and changing flawed policies. But the response is still limited when you consider the scope of the problem.
DHS admitted that there are going to be economic consequences to tough law enforcement. That is why U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke alongside Chertoff about new efforts to improve seasonal worker programs and reduce bureaucratic red tape. Gutierrez was long on rhetoric and short on details. It appears at least that the Bush administration recognizes the problem even if it does not have the capability to solve it without Congressional action.
Here’s one thing that I just want to call your attention to while talking about solutions to challenges. Clarence Leising, a regular contributor to the Pallet Enterprise and a recycling operations expert, will be speaking on an audio conference later this month. Sponsored by Eagle Metal Products (www.palletplates.com), the conference will focus on two key topics: dispatching as a way to utilize current employees to make more money and innovative piecework pay plans for recycling operations. Clarence will cover insights that you may have never thought of when it comes to dispatching, transportation logistics, generating new business from current customers, motivating employees, cutting labor costs and improving production. For more information, see the article on page 25.