It's not often that an administration will introduce new measures by advertising upfront their "negative economic consequences." But illegal immigration has a way of turning politics and policymaking upside down, so now the White House has taken the unusual step of punishing the country for failing to back immigration reform. It's an interesting intellectual exercise, but it may prove disastrous for workers, employers and swaths of the economy.
On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez -- the administration's most enthusiastic lobbyists for comprehensive immigration reform -- announced a package of strict measures designed to mollify populist resentment over what Chertoff called "30 years of lip service" to enforcing immigration law.
Effective immediately, employers who receive "no-match letters" from the Social Security Administration informing them that some of their workers' names do not match their Social Security numbers have 90 days to clear up the matter or face fines and possible criminal charges. The SSA will send out approximately 140,000 such letters this year, covering more than 8 million people.
This might seem sensible on paper, especially to those who have long accused the federal government of looking the other way while deep-pocketed farms, factories and service companies knowingly hired waves of undocumented workers. But consider this: One of the more routine causes of names not matching numbers is women who take their husbands' last names without duly reporting the change to the SSA.