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October 11, 2007

Comments

I love how that article refers to Charles Breyer as the "sister" of the supreme court justice.

And -- extra bonus -- the administration gets to grind its axe about 'activist judges' yet again! It's a win-win! (Except for, um, us. And immigrants. And the rule of law.)

Having appeared before Breyer, I can tell you he's an independent cuss. And very funny. I would never bank on any particular outcome with this guy. Despite years on the bench, he retains an imagination.

As for the kabuki -- do we really believe these people are capable of pulling it off? They are not too good at unintended consequences.

AND You get to complain about "activist judges"! A threefer!

OT - apparently, it may be the case that the administration's interest in illegal wiretapping pre-dated nineleven. Link.

Giving a person with a bad social security number ninety days to either fix it or pursue some documented path to residency doesn’t sound draconian to me. It sounds responsible.

Kabuki or no Kabuki.

Giving a person with a bad social security number ninety days to either fix it or pursue some documented path to residency doesn’t sound draconian to me. It sounds responsible.

You're assuming the problem is with the person, and not with the gov't records.

Yeah, I've had a friend have serious problems because the Social Security Admin accidentally issued the same SSN twice -- once to her and once to someone who apparently can't pay off a debt to save her life.
I've also had an undocumented friend have the SSA accidentally send them a "you're good to work" number instead of a guest worker ID. Good for him, I say, but I have the funny feeling that's not a universal reaction.

The article implies, and I've read elsewhere, that DHS also didn't even conduct a required Cost Benefits Analysis on the effects on small businesses. Since these analyses are notoriously easy to fudge, this would lend a certain credence to this Kabuki Theater idea.
I don't suppose anyone has the CFR citation that would show whether they even addressed the small business CBA beyond just the usual "no or minimal effect" language? I'd be curious to find out.

But he doesn't get the best of both worlds from acts like this. He gets the worst of both worlds, as opponents of immigration enforcement take his actions at face value, while people who want immigration laws enforced see through the dance.

It's a common problem with efforts to have it both ways.

BTW,

"Chertoff expressed disappointment with the decision and said the administration will continue to aggressively enforce immigration laws while considering an appeal, which plaintiffs' attorneys said could take at least nine months."

"Considering" an appeal... Yup, they're not the least bit serious, an appeal would be automatic if they actually wanted to implement the policy, and wouldn't take any nine months to pull off, either. Wouldn't suprise me if an examination of the governments' arguments to the judge showed a Justice taking a dive.

Appeal? This is the 9th we’re talking about right? No chance there. Onward to the Supremes.

BTW I would be hugely in favor of this if the government could guarantee accuracy (OK I made myself chuckle there). It’s not just illegals using bogus SSNs. Identity theft is a growing problem and I’ve been through it once already – I’d love to see this happen just for that reason.

Nah, even in the 9th circuit you can get a lucky draw on a judicial panel. And you never get to the Supreme court if you don't appeal, even if you are likely to lose the initial appeal.

brett - i saw the "considering" language too. i meant to mention that. also note how they tried to use the court ruling to make the argument for their immigration reform bill.

Republicans in congress have been playing this disingenuous game for a long time. Two constituent groups of the party have polar opposite views on illegal immigration. The business people want it for cheap labor, and the social conservatives hate it because, essentially, of their racism.
The republicans in congress call for immigration reform to make the social conservatives happy, but never find a bill limiting immigration strongly enough to vote for, which makes the business people happy.
No immigration bills will ever be passed with the schizo republicans in the majority, and probably even as a sizable minority.

How does the US population registration actually work? In Finland, the hospitals and individual nurses and doctors have been required to report every birth and death (and every undocumented baby) to the national population database for decades. You get the ID number from there in about week. I have never even heard that you could mess up something that simple. After all, it's a serial number. How on earth could you issue the same number twice? Such bugs in the software should not be difficult to fix.

The original creation of the population database took place in 1970s. Before that, every municipality had been required to hold books for its inhabitants (births, deaths, marriages, people moving in and out) for about 250 years. The books were manually moved to the population database, both systems running in parallel for years. In late 1980s, the population database was complete.

Nowadays, the registry is complete, and the people's addresses there are 99.0% correct. The personal data on more basic things like birth dates is even better.

When you move, you are required to report your new address in 10 days (in 3 days if you are a man between 17-60 years of age). The banks, insurance companies and municipalities are all using the system to get your address in real time. It is impossible to do anything legally here, unless your personal data in the registry is correct. You can't get any form of ID. You can't open a bank account, so you cannot be paid wages. And without an ID, you can't get even a room at a hotel.

"How does the US population registration actually work?"

Keep in mind that facilitating identity fraud, in order to make life a bit easier for illegal aliens, has been tacit, bipartisan government policy in this country for a long while. And it shows in our identity theft problem.

I agree, how the heck do you issue two identical serial numbers? Even before computers, there were known and effective ways of rendering that essentially impossible. I suppose a typo when somebody manually fills out the file at SS...

Brett: Keep in mind that facilitating identity fraud, in order to make life a bit easier for illegal aliens, has been tacit, bipartisan government policy in this country for a long while.

Exactly. A high school computer science student could design a system that would make it impossible to issue duplicate SSNs, or for two employers in different parts of the country to have an employee with the same SSN. For anyone who has never had anything to do with database design it’s called a “primary key” and it works really well to prevent duplicate key values. Normally I assume incompetence over intent but some things are just so easy to get right that I have to assume intent over incompetence.

Where, oh where, was that computer science student in 1935?

And why do suggestions of overreaching goals affecting outcomes
concerning Iraq/black sites/voting rights/Katrina/mistracked nukes/etc get slapped down as conspiracy theories, but when the paranoia is on the other foot, it is obvious that the government is facilitating identity fraud in order to sustain illegal immigrants? Interesting, that...

Part of the problem is, I think, that it's pretty easy to not get a SSN for a child. Another part of the problem is the innate fear of a national ID card in the U.S., that we should be able to do things without constantly being asked "Papers please", which reminds people of the Soviet Union. Another part of the problem is that each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia run their own system of issuing IDs, and a lot of the people who work at these places are incompent and/or easily bribed. Some states systems work better than others. Similarly, if my dealings with low level employees at the IRS are an indication of the competence of similar employees at the Social Security Administration (or whatever the agency), then the chances of finding a competent employee are only one in three.

So, there's a lot more incompetence here in a nation of 300 million with an anti-gov't bias than I would guess there is in Finland.

in order to make life a bit easier for illegal aliens

...because employers prefer to be able to hire people in the US illegally at low wages and poor working conditions, than pay fair wages and give decent working conditions to people living in the US legally. Which is also, I should think, why there's never any strong support for making it easier for people to enter the US legally and get work, which would itself cut down on the illegal-alien problem...

Ugh,

It's more like a tradition, not so dependent on population size. We Finns (and our neighbours Swedes) have been registered thoroughly well since 1721. It's a heaven for a genealogist: all the marriages, deaths and movements of people have been written down and well preserved. You can track down your family very well, unless there is a bastard in the line.

The rural tradition of having everything written down transferred very well to the industrialized society: instead of the parish vicar knowing everyone and writing everything down, we have the computers which are even better at it. :-)

LJ: Where, oh where, was that computer science student in 1935?

Most likely learning to use a slide rule? ;)

This really is not a difficult problem and a solution is far from overreaching. So yes, I have to assume that there is no great desire on the part of the powers that be to straighten it out. If the government decides that a SSN is going to be our primary means of identification related to employment etc. then they have some responsibility to insure that when my SSN is used it is really me.

A little OT, but this is less about illegal aliens for me than just a general hot-button. I had three years of my life completely screwed up due to identity theft. It took a lot of money and years (hundreds of hours) to clear it up. And it happened before the 1998 legislation that made it an offense so I literally had no recourse against the person doing it, even to force them to stop doing it. It was a nightmare I would not wish on anyone. Keep an eye on your credit reports people…

"or for two employers in different parts of the country to have an employee with the same SSN."

While I think that should probably raise a red flag, it certainly shouldn't be impossible... There are, after all, circumstances where it can happen legitimately. Some jobs don't actually require you to show up at the plant every day, and we really don't want to make moonlighting by telecommuting impossible.

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that under these rules the gov't can get you fired with a form letter?

"Is anyone else bothered by the fact that under these rules the gov't can get you fired with a form letter?"

That's like saying that a prosecutor can put you in prison with a form letter; What the government can do with the form letter is require you to do something to establish that you're the one with the legitimate claim to that SSN. Yeah, if you spend two months not lifting a finger to establish this, you'll get fired. Similarly, if you get charged with a felony, and don't bother to raise any defense at all, you're probably going to be convicted even if you're factually innocent.

Brett - last time I checked charging someone with a crime was hardly a form letter (though it wouldn't surprise me if it's happened).

All the linked article says about how the process works is:

The government letters are intended to warn employers for the first time that they must resolve questions about their employees' identities or fire them within 90 days. If they do not, employers could face "stiff penalties," including fines and even criminal prosecution, for violating a federal law that bars knowingly employing illegal workers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said when he announced the plan Aug. 10.

Is there an explanation somewhere about how one can "resolve" the situation (seriously, I'll read it)? I would guess that the proposed rules changed the penalties, but did nothing to assist people on remedying the situation if their employer gets a letter (though I'll read a summary of how this was going to be implemented).

There are ways to end up with two people having the same SSN, or one person having two SSNs, mostly involving replacement cards and/or identity fraud.

For example, a kid comes in, and his single mother doesn't know if or when the missing father applied for an SSN for the kid but she hasn't seen one since the father ran off with all the papers. The kid is named John Smith and according to the database three John Smiths were born on the same day, so they start asking more questions to narrow it down. The mother's desperate to get the SSN because she can't get the kid into school and she's missing days from work, so she says "yeah whatever" in response to the questions. Bored clerk issues a new card with some other John Smith's number.

Brett: While I think that should probably raise a red flag, it certainly shouldn't be impossible...

True of course. You could work three part time jobs… But it’s not impossible to handle this.

OTOH, imagine you apply for a mortgage and find out you have lived another whole life in a state you have never even visited. An impressive life at that based on the bills you ran up and skipped out on…


Ugh: Is there an explanation somewhere about how one can "resolve" the situation”

CQ did an interview with DHS Deputy Press Secretary Laura Keehner yesterday on this:

Ms. Keehner took great pains to point out a couple of erroneous suppositions in the ruling. Foremost, the notion that no-match letters exert an undue burden on small businesses is nonsense. The regulation exempts businesses that employ less than 10 people, so mom & pop stores don't have to worry about it at all.
No-match letters require employers to verify the proper name or SSN of the flagged employees within 90 days. Even if one just looks at work days, that means sometime in 65 separate arrivals at the office or plant, someone has to take that employee aside and ask them to look over their paperwork again and provide a correction. That hardly qualifies as an overwhelming burden or cost for enforcement. If the error is innocent, such as a name change following divorce or marriage, it's easily corrected at almost no cost except perhaps a half-hour of time.
What makes this even more absurd is that the SSA and DHS have an on-line system for employers to use themselves to avoid no-match letters from arriving. It's called e-Verify, and it allows employers to discover mismatches immediately, even before employment starts. They have even added a Photo Screening Tool that gives access to 14.8 million ID photos in the green-card system to help employers ensure that they have correct information right from the start.
If employers used this free system properly, they wouldn't have to worry about no-match letters. That mitigates even further the notion of an "undue burden" on employers of any size in verifying the legal status of their workers.

OCSteve: being victim of identity theft must be horrible and lead to many many lost hours to document your true actions.

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