The Austin Chronicle

Opposition to Social Security 'No Match' Letters Mounting

By Cheryl Smith, September 21, 2007, News

Activists across the country took action Wednesday, Sept. 12, against Department of Homeland Security plans to convert "Social Security 'no match' letters into a tool of immigration enforcement. The letters are sent to employers when a worker's stated Social Security number does not match records in government databases," reports radio/television program Democracy Now!, noting that "Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had the largest [protest] turnout with an estimated 10,000 people observing a day of 'No work, no school, no purchases.'"

In Austin, the Workers Defense Project, one of several local groups making up the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, focused on the regional Social Security office in Dallas – which serves all of Texas, as well as Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Okla­homa – attempting to overwhelm it with phone messages and other anti-"no match" communiqués. The Workers Defense Project is carrying out the "flooding" with Houston, New Orleans, and Little Rock, Ark., affiliates of Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago-based "network of people of faith" that, according to its website, advocates nationwide for low-wage workers. According to Democracy Now!'s report, up until recently, "no match" letters "were used to notify employees of the benefits they could lose as a result of the discrepancy." The new letters, however, obligate employers either to fix a Social Security data discrepancy in 90 days or fire the worker.

"It's not [an] employer's job to regulate migration," said WDP Director Cristina Tzin­tzún, who also noted that in addition to affecting undocumented immigrants, "no match" letters adversely impact U.S. citizens who have married or changed their names, as well as Latino citizens, since the largest chunk of undocumented workers in the U.S. comes from Latin America. (According to the 2006-2007 Travis Co. Immigrant Assess­ment report, 17% of Travis County's population is foreign-born; an unknown chunk of that number is undocumented.) DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner said the letters aren't intended to adversely affect any of the above groups of people. Their purpose is to remind employers of the consequences of hiring undocumented workers, she said.

A San Francisco judge ordered in August "a temporary stay on sending out new versions of the letters," Democracy Now! reports, also noting that a related Oct. 1 hearing is scheduled.

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