San Francisco Federal Court Again Delays Immigration ‘No-Match’ Letter Mailings

Immigration reform continues to be a hot potato, and perhaps no more so than in Northern California. For the second time in a little over a month, a federal judge in San Francisco has decided to delay an effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce the integrity of the Social Security program. Union Corruption Update reported two issues ago that U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney on August 31 had issued a temporary restraining order barring DHS from mailing notices to some 140,000 employers across the nation, warning them about discrepancies between employer and employee Social Security information. These “no-match” letters would be amplified by a separate notice indicating the potential penalties for failing to resolve differences. DHS, under great pressure from the American people, seeks to discourage employers from hiring illegal immigrants. It now will have to wait a little longer.


On October 1, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer decided to extend Judge Chesney’s order. Breyer, brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, stated that he wanted additional time to consider certain points made during that day’s hearing. “It’s clear…there could be irreparable harm to plaintiffs if the government went ahead with its plans,” he said. The letters would be good to go once the court gives its permission. Now “no match” letters are not new. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been mailing them out to employees since 1979 and to employers at work sites with 11 or more no-match employees since 1994. What is new is that the Department of Homeland Security, stung by repeated (and justified) criticism that it has been less than vigilant in enforcing the law, is sending to employers copies of those same letters, plus an insert indicating a 90-day maximum period to clear up mismatches in names, addresses, dates of birth and other pertinent data. The alternative is to face civil or criminal action.


Organized labor and business, each for different reasons a promoter of mass immigration, responded to this DHS-SSA tandem effort with a lawsuit. The AFL-CIO, several San Francisco Bay Area labor organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other employer groups joined the lead plaintiff, the American Civil Liberties Union, to bar DHS from sending out the letters, which had been set for mailing during September 4-November 9. They claim that many legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens could lose their jobs over paperwork errors. “The Department of Homeland Security does not have the authority to hijack the Social Security Administration’s data for immigration enforcement,” said ACLU attorney Lucas Guttentag.  


But critics of mass immigration and interest groups supporting it see our nation itself as in the throes of a slow-motion hijacking. “It’s those people who want to use cheap, illegal labor that do not want this rule enforced,” said Rick Oltman, director of public relations for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a Santa Barbara-based organization favoring tough immigration restrictions. “If you’re an employer, is it a huge imposition to see if you’ve made a typo in someone’s name?”

SSA records do contain any number of discrepancies. The agency’s Office of Inspector General last year issued a report indicating that 17.8 million out of 435 million Social Security records have at least one mismatch. But there is no reason to believe that such problems cannot be fixed. Moreover, each month of delay makes illegal immigration that much more intractable. The most conservative estimate of the number of illegal immigrants now in this country is 12 million; the real total may be far higher. The AFL-CIO and many affiliate unions for years have expressed explicit support for no-strings amnesty for all illegal workers. Supporting lawbreaking here might not formally qualify as corruption, but surely it reinforces the widespread perception among the American people that organized labor is not on their side. (Associated Press, 10/2/07; Washington Times, 10/4/07; other sources).