If you're an illegal or fugitive you can use a social security number of 000-00-0000 and the federal government won't care. - That's because the current law doesn't demand much. So long as the Social Security card looks legitimate, an employer is allowed to accept it.
The fake doesn't even have to be that good. A 2005 report by the federal Government Accountability Office found that between 1985 and 2000, 9 million people got hired using this Social Security number: 000-00-0000.
The report also found 3.5 million instances where a company had several employees using the same Social Security number.
The Social Security Administration collected $14.5 billion between 1985 and 2000 from invalid SS numbers (including almost 9 million filings under Social Security number 000-00-0000).
Ten percent of the 250 million wage reports filed by employers with Social Security every year match no existing numbers. (Many even come in with numbers such as 000-00-0000.)
Migrant-plan veto helps drivers
Jun. 19, 2006 12:00 AM
There is a group of people who should be glad that Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed the Republican-backed immigration plan: Arizona drivers.
The proposed law had a provision that would have required firms doing business with the state to verify their employees' Social Security numbers. That would have included the companies that build the state's freeways.
And that could have made construction move slower than, well, a Phoenix freeway at rush hour.
"I think we'd probably work through it, but it would definitely be a pain in the neck," said Brad Larson, president and chief executive officer of Meadow Valley Contractors. His company is one of the most often used by Arizona's highway department. It is currently doing work on Interstate 17 by Cordes Junction and the Superstition Freeway through the East Valley.
"Everybody wants it built yesterday and don't want to be inconvenienced," Larson said.
But the much-sought-after projects would be delayed if Larson had to put his employees through further scrutiny. He would find that a number of his employees are people here illegally and using fake documents to get hired.
"You hate to think that, but we all know it's a reality of life," Larson said. "The gut feeling is that it's just so prevalent in the world today, and especially in our area. You'd have to almost be out of touch if you didn't think that somewhere in time a man with fake documents didn't creep in there somewhere."
Larson has no idea how many of his employees might be here illegally. Because he is following current immigration law to the letter. As far as he knows, all his employees are authorized to work.
But that's because the current law doesn't demand much. So long as the Social Security card looks legitimate, an employer is allowed to accept it.
The fake doesn't even have to be that good. A 2005 report by the federal Government Accountability Office found that between 1985 and 2000, 9 million people got hired using this Social Security number: 000-00-0000. The report also found 3.5 million instances where a company had several employees using the same Social Security number. Most of the problem entries came from the food service industry and the construction industry.
Employers technically are doing nothing wrong. They're just following a law that allows them to hire people who can easily trick the system with easily obtained fake documents.
If people could no longer get hired using fake documents, it would worsen the labor shortage in the construction industry, said David Martin, president of the Arizona chapter of Associated General Contractors.
"If it means more folks are caught in the net of illegal immigration," he said, "sure, any type of barrier to entry into the labor market would affect us."
Martin said he hears people tell him that about 18 million United States residents are unemployed and could fill those construction jobs. "I say bring 'em on," he said. But, the industry finds that their employees have stopped coming from rural parts of the United States. They are now coming from Latin America and speak Spanish. "You have to be ready, willing and able, and what we're finding is our friends from Mex- ico and other parts of Central America are ready, willing and able," he said.
Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are threatening to take their vetoed immigration package directly to the voters. At this point, it would include the provision that mandates contractors verify Social Security numbers.
House Speaker Jim Weiers does not believe it would affect the construction industry, said Barrett Marson, his spokesperson. "People keep saying they don't hire illegals," Marson said. And if they were, getting rid of that practice would be worth it, he said. "Something would have to change," he said.
Illegal immigration is a complicated issue for which there are no easy answers. But if the Republican plan becomes law, Arizona drivers would have a lot of time to consider the labor done by the undocumented community. While stuck in traffic.
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Do illegal immigrants pay fair share of tax load?
By SCOTT CANON
They might outfox the Border Patrol and avoid immigration agents, but even people in the country illegally find it hard to dodge the tax man.
Just how much they pay in taxes is hard to calculate.
But a computer analysis performed for The Star by a group advocating more progressive tax policy attempted a guess.
“These are wide ranges,” said Matt Gardner, the state tax policy director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “But most of the taxes they pay are taxes no one can avoid.”
His projections make a range of assumptions about the number of illegal immigrants in either state and average family earnings. They also assume that half of illegal immigrants pay no income tax because of their shadowy legal status.
• In Missouri, illegal immigrants pay between $29 million and $57 million in state and local taxes a year.
• In Kansas, they pay between $39 million and $73 million in state and local taxes.
• Those state and local taxes work out to about 6.9 percent of family income for illegal immigrants in Missouri, 9.3 percent in Kansas.
At the federal level, Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies believes illegal immigrants’ eventual tax bill is less because their incomes are low, their families are larger and their immigration status often means their employers dodge payroll deductions.
• He estimates illegal-immigrant families pay 28 percent of the average in federal taxes.
Illegal immigrants also pay into programs they are ineligible to draw from.
• The Social Security Administration collected $14.5 billion between 1985 and 2000 attributed to no valid worker’s account (including almost 9 million filings under Social Security number 000-00-0000).
National ID card a future job requirement?
WASHINGTON - The job application of the future may require showing would-be bosses a new ID card proving prospective employees are who they say they are.
As Congress debates sweeping immigration and border security reforms, some lawmakers and policy experts say no new system will work without such tamper-proof credentials. Otherwise, immigrants still could come to the United States illegally and use fake documents to get jobs, possibly undermining reforms designed to encourage legal immigration.
How lawmakers deal with verifying workers' identities could determine whether immigration reform succeeds or fails. Experts agree the prospect of finding work in the United States is the lure for more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants who come here every year.
But critics are concerned about privacy issues with an ID card system, adding to worries that the government would be too involved in job applications under any new immigration system.
The House and the Senate have passed competing versions of reform legislation, and both bills would require employers to check whether workers are legally eligible for U.S. jobs. Neither bill would create a new ID document for all workers - the Senate bill calls for ID cards for foreign guest workers, and the House bill would have employers check applicants' Social Security numbers against a federal database. But revisions are expected during negotiations over how to reconcile the two bills. Negotiations have not yet begun, but Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says a "secure, tamper-proof" ID card is an essential part of reform that he will push for during House-Senate meetings.
"If you (allow immigration) in a regulated manner and you don't close the back door to illegal immigration, it's the same effect," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for U.S. Border Patrol agents.
A new system might require a new work authorization ID, or it might combine more secure Social Security cards with more secure driver's licenses to prevent people from using counterfeit cards to pass checks. The government would have to update its databases either way, experts said.
Employers now are required to ask for Social Security numbers, but there's little consequence for most companies even if they find out workers are using fake numbers or numbers that belong to someone else. The Department of Homeland Security, which enforces laws against hiring undocumented immigrants, does not have access to Social Security records that show which companies have received warnings that their workers are using bogus IDs.
The non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 7 million of the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants living here already are working. A Government Accountability Office audit last year found 9 million cases of workers using the Social Security number 000-00-0000 when applying for jobs.
Requiring all employers to check Social Security numbers against a federal database could cost nearly $12 billion a year, another GAO report found last year. The audit didn't study how much a new card might cost.
"As long as people can use documents that U.S. citizens now use, which are highly insecure, it's unlikely that we'll be able to reduce the fraud substantially enough," said Deborah Meyers, a senior analyst at the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
The need for a new worksite verification system with secure identifying documents unites lawmakers who often split over immigration, from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chief sponsors of reform legislation, to House conservatives like Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., leader of a caucus that pushes for more enforcement of current laws. Business owners might welcome a change that makes it easier to figure out whether workers are in the country legally.
"I think that there should be a card that is read," said Marty Thompson, vice president for human resources at Bar-S Foods, based in Phoenix. "We've got computers, read the card . . . There should be a standard document (for U.S. citizens and foreigners). Why not?"
President Bush, who supports the Senate bill, said recently that all foreign workers should have a secure ID card that proves they are who they say. That might mean U.S. citizens would not need any new documents.
But Latino civil rights advocates, who have played a major role in pushing Congress to act on immigration, say a universal verification system would be more fair. Otherwise, advocates worry that employers would reject hiring hiring anyone who they thought might be a foreigner, for fear of unwittingly accepting phony documentation.
"If we're going to have a system that works and that reforms our immigration system, we need to be able to verify the employment of all eligible workers," said Flavia Jimenez, a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza. Conservatives like Bonner agree that letting U.S. citizens prove their identity without a new, counterfeit-proof card could backfire.
"The system (the House bill is based on) relies upon nothing more than matching Social Security names, number, date of birth and a separate form of ID to prove that you are that person," Bonner said. "That's great if every employer were a cop, but the cops are the only ones who have the means to tell the genuine from the fake driver's license."
But critics say any national system to verify identity would effectively mean workers need the government's permission to get a job, and that security flaws in federal databases could leave personal records vulnerable to hackers.
"Our fundamental freedoms should not be undermined through a flawed immigration reform bill," said Caroline Frederickson, director of the national legislative office for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Politically influential business groups, which also are pushing for immigration reform, said they're staying out of the argument about a new ID document, as long as Congress comes up with a system that won't be too expensive or complex for employers to use.
"The issue is, does the system work?" said John Gay, co-chairman of the Essential Immigration Worker Coalition, which represents big hotel chains, restaurant companies and other employers. "There's no out for us if the government doesn't have its end running."
End free pass on hiring of illegals
Published on: 06/12/06
Here's a novel idea: To cut down on the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States, enforce the existing laws against hiring them.
Incredibly, it has taken the Bush administration six years to embrace that simple concept.
Until now, if the government notified an employer that a new worker's Social Security number did not match any government records on the individual, the employer was under no obligation to do anything.
That was a serious lapse in oversight. According to government numbers, at least 10 percent of the 250 million wage reports filed by employers with Social Security every year match no existing numbers. (Many even come in with numbers such as 000-00-0000.)
Last week, though, the Department of Homeland Security announced that from now on, it will require employers to actually investigate mismatched numbers, and will be held responsible if they continue to employ workers who cannot explain the discrepancy.
This wink-and-nod approach by federal officials to enforcement of workplace hiring rules did not begin with the Bush administration, however. The Clinton administration took the same "see-no-evil" view of what goes on in employment offices of large construction firms, poultry plants, textile mills and other businesses that rely on immigrants willing to work cheap and not raise a ruckus about overtime or safety and health hazards.
The result, of course, has been 12 million immigrants in the country illegally, with more coming every day.
To stem that tide, some in Congress advocate building hundreds of miles of fence and doubling — again — the number of Border Patrol agents. Fine. Give it a try.
But enforcing workplace hiring laws and levying big fines, even prison, on employers who violate those laws will have much more impact on the flow of illegal immigrants coming here. That's where Congress needs to concentrate the resources — human and financial — if it is serious about immigration reform.
— Mike King, for the editorial board (firstname.lastname@example.org)