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Oregon Employers and the Law: A “No-Match” Made in Heaven


Having worked in Oregon politics for a number of years, I was quite surprised to see a new study that suggested the state doesn't have enough workers -- until I saw who paid for the study. The Coalition for a Working Oregon, an organization whose members include Oregon's Farm Bureau and Restaurant Association, as well as Immigration Works USA and Essential Workers Immigration Coalition, commissioned a study on what would happen to Oregon’s economy should the new “no-match” rule be implemented. Their conclusion that jobs would be lost and production reduced conveniently coincides with their resistance to a clarification of long-standing government policy and desire for cheap labor.

The one thing I could not get out of my mind while reading about this study is that for over a decade, Oregon’s unemployment rate has consistently been higher than the nation’s. Although that gap has narrowed, unemployment in Oregon has still risen in the last year, particularly in rural counties, indicating that the trend of high unemployment has not been reversed. With unemployment rates over 11 percent in Grant County, you’d think that there might be a few Oregonians who need jobs.

No-match letters are nothing new. For nearly 30 years the Social Security Administration has been sending no-match letters to workers whose social security numbers do not match the information in its records. In 1994, the SSA started sending no-match letters to employers who submitted 10 or more W-2 forms that do not match up to SSA records – a pretty good indicator that some of their employees might just be illegal. However, these letters were easy to ignore, and in most cases were.

Last August, the administration promulgated a rule to give better definition to what no-match letters mean for employers and what they should do upon receipt of one. The new rule also gives safe harbor to employers who take the newly outlined steps upon receiving a no-match letter. These three steps are quite logical and simple: 1) check their records for clerical errors; 2) ask the employee to verify his or her information; and 3) if the first two steps do not resolve the error, the employer attempts to re-verify the employee through documents that don’t use a social security number.

The fact is, it is illegal to hire an alien unauthorized to work in the United States. The new no-match rule gives employers better tools to ensure they are abiding by the law. So, either the Coalition for a Working Oregon misunderstands the no-match rule, or this group of employers does not want the government interfering with their willful violation of the law and quest for cheap labor.

Instead of fighting the law, perhaps these employers should focus on complying with it and giving Oregonians a fair chance and a fair wage.


Caroline Espinosa formerly was a U.S. Senate Press Secretary and spokesperson for NumbersUSA.

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