Social Security 'No-Match' Letters: A Primer
This Backgrounder report explores the proposed implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new guidance, which mandates employers who receive “no match” letters—letters sent to an employer when the Social Security Administration database finds a discrepancy between an employee’s name and social security number—to determine the source of the discrepancy, take steps to resolve it within 90 days, and if this is not possible, terminate the employee. Supporters of the new DHS rule contend that these procedures do not create any additional requirements for employers but, rather, provide guidance to employers on how to both respect the rights of their employees and comply with work authorization laws; however, its legality has been called into question by AFL-CIO v. Chertoff.
This report provides a history of “no-match” letters, estimates the number of workers who would be affected by the new guidance, and summarizes the legal arguments of AFL-CIO v. Chertoff.
The report indicates that DHS “guidance letters” will subject employers who are unable to resolve an employee’s “no-match” discrepancy within 90 days to criminal sanctions, as the receipt of these two documents may be used as evidence of an employer’s constructive knowledge of employing an unauthorized worker. The plaintiffs in AFL-CIO v. Chertoff allege that the regulation expands employer liability in a manner contrary to the governing statute, exceeds the authority that Congress granted to DHS and SSA, and would lead to serious due-process violations. Based on 2006 estimates, the report predicts that these new measures, if implemented, will impact more than 1.5 million workers, with some 1 million concentrated in ten states that receive the most no-match letters, which also happen to be the same states with the largest numbers of unauthorized immigrants.