Image via U.S. government

published on April 16, 2019 - 3:36 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Local elected officials, agriculture advocates and even a boxing champion gathered in Fresno Tuesday to decry what they see as President Trump’s latest salvo in the immigration issue.

The Social Security Administration recently announced it would be reviving so-called “no match” letters to business owners across the country. These letters inform employers if they have employees whose names do not match their Social Security number on record.

While the administration insists the letters are an effort to credit earnings to a worker’s record, many see this as a way to intimidate employers of undocumented immigrants who may be working under a fake Social Security number.

The “no-match” letters gained steam in the administration of President George W. Bush. The policy was reversed by President Obama in 2012.

Citing numbers from the Nisei Farmers League, a Fresno-based farm group, Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) said the organization has received calls from 37 separate employers who have received such letters who represent 36,450 employees. Of that total, 22,481 employees had Social Security numbers that did not match, Costa said — a 61% inaccuracy rate.

Others speaking out against the revived Social Security Administration policy at the press conference include Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno), state Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Nisei Farmers League president Manuel Cunha and Jose Ramirez of Avenal, World Boxing Council super lightweight champion and an outspoken supporter of Valley agriculture.

Raised in a family of migrant farmworkers, Ramirez said he is thankful to have a platform to speak out against what he sees as harmful policies.

“This is not the way to deal with immigration reform, by penalizing hardworking people or penalizing employers,” Ramirez said at the press conference.

Costa pointed out that the Social Security Administration has no enforcement role in immigration, but the letters can lay out a foundation for possible liability against the employer. The letters detail a process for employers to get their employees to correct the discrepancies.

“You should not use this letter to take any adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing or discriminating against that individual, just because his or her SSN or name does not match our records,” according to a sample “no-match” letter.

The letters are expected to impact not only the agriculture industry, but also construction, manufacturing, retail and more. Caballero warned it would have broad, negative impact in small farming communities.

“Just like the drought hurt small rural communities, this is going to hurt small rural communities,” Caballero said.

For information for employers on how to deal with a “no-match” letter, see this blog post from Cornell University in New York.

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