New Regulations, Same Old Prejudice

Immigration lawyer Ann Allott offers this advice to the employers who are her clients: The days of winking and nodding at undocumented workers is over. It’s time to get out in front of anticipated new federal employee identification regulations.

Those rules are expected to be announced any day, said Allott, the founder of Allott Immigration Law Firm in Littleton. They are expected to force employers to fire employees whose Social Security numbers don’t match national databases.

“Right now,” said Allott, “when you get a ‘no-match’ letter from the Social Security Administration, you don’t fire employees.”

At least you don’t have to.

But with national immigration enforcement efforts swelling, Allott tells her clients they're better off adapting now to potentially disruptive policies than risking fines up to $10,000 per employee,  


“I had an employer do it this week,” Allott said. “We agreed that 30 days would be a reasonable period of time for an employee to prove he had a valid Social Security number.”

After that, an employee with a disputed Social Security number is let go until he can validate his legal status. But that isn’t usually necessary.

When you establish firing deadlines, explained Allott, “the undocumented flee.”

That’s a disruptive, but unavoidable fact of business life.

“We have left the permissive time when employers protected undocumented workers,” said Allott.

“ICE (the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) spent $47 million this year on enforcement. It will spend $100 million next year.”

That doesn’t mean the new guidelines, rumored to be announced soon, will make things much better in the short term. Firing people with invalid Social Security numbers will “cause chaos,” Allott predicted.

For starters, the estimated 12 million to 20 million undocumented people living in the U.S. will not all go home. They will just get better at identity fraud. And the reason that will happen, said Allott, is because the federal government will not be able to put the new ‘no-match’ regulations into effect any better than it was able to implement a requirement that all Americans traveling outside the country carry passports.

The real answer, said Allott, is the very thing that hamstrung the recent Congressional debate on comprehensive immigration reform:

A way to legal status for those current here illegally.

Those folks help the American economy more than they hurt it. Forcing them to leave is an expensive exercise in futility that dwarfs the passport program.

Undocumented workers need “temporary protected status,” Allott argued. “That’s we do for (people who seek political or social asylum).”

Most of the folks the haters disdainfully refer to as “illegal aliens” are willing to labor until they drop at jobs that employers would otherwise have trouble filling, Allott insisted.

“All they want is the right to work and the right to travel,” Allott said.

That’s not entirely true. Undocumented foreign workers want to send their kids to Americans schools so the children can learn and rise above their parents’ circumstances. Illegal immigrants also need access to medical care in a system that doesn’t break the bank by forcing them to emergency rooms.

So far, Congress has refused to deal with any of that.

“Congress,” said Allott, “is paralyzed.”

As a result, the country will soon embark on another half-baked regulatory theory of immigration control that seems as destined for failure as its predecessors.

“I’d love to see undocumented people become legal,” said Allott, “but the history of prejudice in this country probably won’t allow it.”

In 1882 Congress passed an “exclusion act” to keep out Chinese immigrants. This was succeeded by a quota system in 1924. It took the immigration reform bill of 1965 to really reopen the country to Chinese people.

Of course that is nothing compared to how the United States treated its original inhabitants.

American Indians didn’t qualify for citizenship until 1924. And it took until the middle of the 20th century for every state to finally grant Indians the right to vote.

This doesn’t bode well for the Latino immigrants our current nativists love to hate.

If Eurpoean settlers had to be badgered to offer Native Americans citizenship and the franchise, think how they'll react to interlopers from South of the border.