Are SSA No-Match Letters Putting American Jobs at Risk?

Written by on April 26, 2011 in Employment and Wages, Enforcement, Interior Enforcement with 2 Comments


The Social Security Administration (SSA) just announced it will resume its practice of notifying employers of discrepancies in employee paperwork through “no-match letters”—a mechanism which threatens countless American jobs. Despite the Administration’s clear assertion that the letter “makes no statement” about a worker’s immigration status, employer confusion over the letters has led to erroneous firings and lost wages in the past, and threatens to be the case now. It is anticipated that over 1 million workers will be the subject of these letters.

Each year, employers file a Wage and Tax Statement (Form W-2) with SSA and the Internal Revenue Service to report how much they paid their employees and how much they deducted in taxes from employees’ wages throughout the year. SSA sends a no-match letter when the names or Social Security numbers listed on an employer’s Form W 2 do not match SSA’s records. According to SSA’s Office of the Inspector General, more than 70 percent of the 17.8 million discrepancies in SSA’s database belong to native-born U.S. citizens.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. While the purpose of these letters is simply to ensure that workers are getting credit for their earnings, a now-rescinded 2007 Bush administration rule turned the letter on its head. Under the rule, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could use the receipt of a no-match letter as evidence that an employer had knowledge that the employee who is the subject of the letter is not authorized to work and required employers to take certain steps to avoid liability, including terminating employees who could not fix database errors. The new rule essentially sent the message that a no-match letter would be used against the employer to prove an immigration violation.

The National Immigration Law Center and other civil rights and labor unions filed a lawsuit to stop this economically devastating rule, which was eventually blocked by the courts. In fact, in issuing a decision that blocked the rule from being implemented, the Court stated that if the rule were allowed to proceed, it would “result in irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.” And in 2009, Secretary Napolitano rescinded the no-match rule citing the lawsuit. SSA also suspended its employer no-match program over the last three years.

So why send the letters now? Employers fearful of ICE enforcement will ignore SSA’s claims that the letters do not make an assertion about immigration status, and unnecessarily fire immigrant and US-born workers alike. The government itself estimated that if the rule were implemented at least 70,000 citizens and legal immigrants would lose their jobs because of confusion over the rule and challenges that workers would face in correcting errors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce put this number at 165,000.

In a time of 9% unemployment it seems almost unfathomable that the Administration would re-institute a policy that will cause the loss of American jobs. It’s time to retire the ineffective Social Security Administration “no-match” letter, and focus on creating jobs.

Photo by fauxto_digit.


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  • J. Wilson

    SSA database errors must be corrected to implement the E-Verify system and obtaining input from affected persons is the most efficient way to solve the problem. A temporary dip in our economic recovery is a small price to pay for the chance to lessen the growing fiscal burden U.S. taxpayers now shoulder to subsidize illegals living in this country. Seriously, this little bit of adversity is nothing compared to the buckets of blood, sweat and tears that so many generations of Americans have shed to make this country great. I think we can handle it.

    • I’m with you J. Wilson. The no-match letters afford individuals the opportunity to guard against the increasing threat of identity fraud. Which is the better solution, allowing illegals to to take on jobs that might otherwise be available to our citizens and legalized foreign nationals who patiently followed the rules, or turn a blind eye to protecting those who have the right to live, work and enjoy the benefits of a better system that will pay off for all. We’re all in this together. While recent studies show monies are given to our social security system by illegals using someone’s SS#, this is not a strong argument. I’d rather see monies coming from U.S. citizens and authorized foreign nationals who need work desperately. Read the rules, employers give employees the chance to clear up any discrepancies in a reasonable amount of time. I might be frustrated if I had to spend a few hours to clear things up, but I’d walk away knowing I was part of the solution and not the problem.