Op ed by Nancy Ortiz
Scott Hochberg’s article Making E-Verify Mandatory: The Perfect Storm for Crippling the Social Security Administration and Jeopardizing the Social Safety Net discusses issues regarding the e-Verify system and a move in Congress to make it mandatory for everyone hired for a job in the US. He points out that eVerify is every bit as much a threat to SS and Medicare as any of the other benefit, COLA, or Medicare provider cuts now being discussed. I read Hochberg’s article with great interest and have a few additional points to add to his excellent analysis of this subject.
When the Immigration Reform Act took effect in 1987, I was the manager of the SS office in Northern Santa Barbara County in strawberry, broccoli, lettuce and wine grape country. Thousands of migrant workers pass through the area at the height of the picking season between January and May. Many stay with or without authorization so that about 60% of the population is Hispanic and/or non-English speaking/non-US national. You will find similar demographics up and down the California Central Coast in agricultural areas, so there’s nothing unusual about this.
I’ll spare you the war stories of actually implementing IRCA’s social security number provisions. This was the Bush I administration notable for its parsimony in budgeting for SSA operations. (How bad was it? How about no hiring, no overtime and no photocopy paper bad?) Farm workers in the area lined up with their new Immigration work visas in hand outside our office door at 6:00A and we interviewed Social Security Number applicants until 5:00P every day from 1987 til mid-1989. It was hard to get anything else done, but the normal operation got busier because of the recession that put maybe 15% of the workforce in our area out of work.
Alright, now it won’t take much imagination to imagine the same situation but worse, because now every worker would be subject to e-verify. Not just the “obvious illegals,” every single one who applied for a job. Hochberg’s article summarizes the projected workload from this but SSA’s workforce is now 20 or more years older
and really, really ready to retire. And, of course, Congress is talking about cutting the whole federal civil service workforce 10% across the board while maintaining an indefinite hiring freeze and whacking every agencies’ budget in its 2 Trillion to 4 Trillion dollar spending cuts. The President is ready to agree to at least 2 Trillion in cuts, but discussions are continuing.
Perhaps you can see now why making it illegal to work in the US without lawful admission was a bad, terrible, awful, rotten, really bad idea from the git-go. “All we would have to do to” avoid this debacle is revoke this provision and we could go back to doing business the way we did before 1987. The punitive notion of making
work without documents a “crime” has resulted in a flood of counterfeit and stolen documents. Field workers often buy many sets of documents (at high prices) before getting a set that will pass employers’ inspection. Every town in California and other border states has document mills. Sanctions against employers for hiring undocumented workers are virtually never imposed. Identity theft, impossible to prevent and prosecute effectively, is epidemic. And, on and on. All because of the notion that working in the US should be a crime.
If you remain unconvinced, let me remind you that the budget for SSA’s New New Computer Center was reduced about in this last round of spending cuts. This will make it impossible to meet an early construction deadline made necessary by the fragility of the existing computer system. This is estimated to result in causing SSA’s now aged and outdated computer processing and data storage systems to collapse
sometime between now and 2013. 2013 is supposedly the outside range of functionality assuming nothing catastrophic (such as a major power grid black out) happens between now and then. Otherwise, it can go at any time. Finally, I don’t need to remind you of the pending DIB appeals workload of approx. 700K cases still on hand.
But, in closing let me ask you–can you prove you are a US citizen or lawfully admitted alien with permission to work if I ask you right this minute? No, your drivers’ license isn’t enough. Your SS card isn’t ID. You may have a US Passport but it won’t resolve the matter unless it is current. Your current or former employer’s assurance isn’t enough either.
Prove to me who you are or you can’t work here any more. And, it says here on this little No Match notice that you aren’t who you say you are. So, what about it? Exactly who are you anyway, Mr. Working American?