A looming federal crackdown on illegal-immigrant hiring could create widespread workplace disruptions, says the Seattle Times. In letters to be mailed starting Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security will warn employers of some 8 million workers nationwide that they must fire any employee who lacks a valid Social Security number or risk criminal charges and hefty fines. Millions of illegal immigrants land jobs by using an assortment of phony documents – including fabricated or stolen Social Security numbers. With unemployment at record-low levels, this new Homeland Security regulation is creating angst in a range of industries.
Immigrant-rights advocates say the Homeland Security letters could drive thousands of workers underground, where many illegal immigrants already are paid under the table. Many will join the ranks of day laborers or become transient, constantly moving among employers. About 15,000 letters will be sent each week for eight to 10 weeks. “It’s still a bit of a shock that they’re going to do this,” said Anthony Anton, executive director of the Washington Restaurant Association. “We think once these letters come out, most [undocumented workers] won’t show up for work the next day.” A new regulation effective Sept. 14 gives employers 90 days after they receive a letter to resolve any discrepancy with the Social Security numbers, or they risk being held liable for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. In addition to criminal prosecution, employers face fines up to $11,000 per worker. “DHS is turning the screws on the employment community  trying to make it more uncomfortable for employers to simply ignore these letters,” said Steve Miller, a Seattle immigration attorney.