When he signed the Homeland Security funding bill last week, President Bush vowed to track down illegal aliens inside the United States and enforce the law against employers who hire them.
"If somebody's here illegally, we've got to do everything we can to find them," said Bush. "We've got to crack down on employers who flout our laws."
Well, I have two pieces of information the president might find useful. The first is that I know where he can get excellent intelligence that could help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents simultaneously find a great many illegal aliens and crack down on employers flouting the law. The second is that if DHS uses this information, it may well end up busting a state government for hiring illegal aliens.
The information is now in the possession of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which believes it is legally prevented from sharing it with DHS other than in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Specifically, SSA has two lists. First, according to the SSA inspector general, SSA develops a list each year of all employers who submit 100 or more W-2 forms -- reporting the wages they have paid to their workers -- that SSA cannot credit to known taxpayers because the Social Security numbers on the W-2s are fake or don't belong to the person named on the form.
Secondly, the inspector general completed a more elite list in October 2004. It ranks the top 100 employers who filed the largest number of bad W-2s from 1997 to 2001. The publicly released version of this list does not name the employers, identifying them only by state, number of bad W-2s they filed and other payroll data.
These two SSA lists would be a gold mine for DHS agents assigned to worksite enforcement of the immigration laws because bad W-2s tend to be filed on behalf of illegal alien workers. Indeed, as then-SSA Inspector General James G. Huse Jr. told a House subcommittee in 2002, "illegal work is the primary cause" of these bad W-2s.
Here's why I suspect DHS might end up busting a state government for flouting the immigration law if it is given these lists: The October 2004 inspector general report said a state government agency was one of the top 100 filers of bad W-2s. "Forty-three of the top 100 employers were in the service industry, 32 were in the restaurant industry, and 20 employers were in the agriculture industry," reported the inspector general. "Four of the remaining employers were in the hotel/retail industry, and one was a state agency."