MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This week, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce a crackdown on illegal immigrants. It will mandate that employers fire workers who have false Social Security numbers.
MARKETPLACE's Amy Scott joins us now. And Amy, tell us more about these new rules.
AMY SCOTT: Well, we won't know of the specifics until Homeland Security actually publishes the final rules. But according to a draft proposed more than a year ago, they involve what are known as no match letters. These are notices that the Social Security administration sends out to employers when the name and Social Security number given by a worker don't match government records.
The proposed rules would require employers to address the problem within a certain time frame and then if the employee can't provide the necessary documents the employer has to fire that person or faces fines of up to $10,000. And officials are reportedly planning more workplace raids to back up the new rules.
BRAND: Now, you said that these rules were proposed more than a year ago? Why are they taking effect now?
SCOTT: Well, as you know, Congress has been working on a major immigration overhaul and officials decided to wait that process out. But when those reform efforts died in June, the department let employers know that this was on its way.
BRAND: Well, I can't imagine employers are too happy about this.
SCOTT: Right. I talked to Laura Reiff. She co-chairs the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents employers of low skilled workers, you know, restaurants, agriculture, meatpacking, health care. Reiff says the big concern is that people will get these letters and just won't show up for work.
Ms. LAURA REIFF (Essential Worker Immigration Coalition): We know five percent of our workforce is undocumented and if that workforce was ripped out of the economy right now, I think we'd have a major economic downturn. And you know, perhaps businesses would shut down and perhaps they go offshore and perhaps hospitals wouldn't have the workers that they need in it. And there's a real recipe for a lot of pain here.
SCOTT: So this is one of those rare occasions when you see employers joining ranks with unions and immigrant advocates. There is a lot of opposition to this plan.
BRAND: And there must be some people in favor of it. Who's in favor?
SCOTT: Presumably. Yes. Some Republicans in Congress had favored as part of the immigration bill allowing authorities to access that no match database at the Social Security Administration to aide their enforcement efforts.
But I think, you know, a lot of people would still prefer some sort of comprehensive immigration reform, the kind that Congress had been working on. And some favor reform that provide some channel for these undocumented immigrants to work in the country legally. And I think the hope is that that debate is eventually revived.
BRAND: Well, thank you, Amy. That's Amy Scott of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, and MARKETPLACE is produced by American Public Media.
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