It is this: Investigate the employer who -- according to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA) -- filed 37,375 inaccurate W-2s in tax year 2005. In fact, investigate all employers who have similarly filed massive numbers of bad W-2s.
Forget the employers who filed 100, 200 or even 500 bad W-2s per year. Give them a pass -- for now. Focus only on those that filed thousands.
Make them sit publicly in congressional hearings and explain how and why they filed so many bad documents with the IRS. Make them as famous as they deserve to be.
When you are done with that, bring in any administration official who wants to defend these employers -- or the workers who provided these employers with false Social Security Numbers when they took the jobs for which the bad W-2s were filed.
The truth: Our government is willfully refusing to enforce the immigration laws not only at the border but also in the workplace.
Congress can play one of two roles here: It can expose the executive's intentional non-enforcement of the law or be a co-conspirator in that non-enforcement.
If Congress chooses the latter, why should any American believe that it and the administration will join together after they enact an illegal-alien amnesty and enforce laws they refuse to enforce now?
As I reported before in this column, the SSA inspector general on Dec. 15, 2008, published an analysis of "no-match" W-2s. These are W-2s on which the name and the Social Security Number do not match and SSA cannot readily determine the true identity of the worker for whom it was filed. SSA dumps these into what it calls the "Earnings Suspense File" (ESF).
In this 2008 report, the inspector general looked at the W-2s SSA dropped into the ESF for tax year 2005.
He discovered that 10.1 million no-match W-2s were filed that year, and 871,000 employers filed at least one. But an elite group -- 1,650 employers -- filed 500 or more. "These employers had reported no-matches that ranged from 501 to 37,375," said the IG, "and about 44 percent of the employers had reported ... 1,000 or more no-matches to SSA."
So, who was the employer that filed 37,375? In the IG's report, this employer is anonymous.
But it is not anomalous. On March 7, 2005, the Government Accountability Office released an audit report on the no-match W-2s filed from 1985 to 2000.
"We found that employers with a high number of reports in the ESF had a consistent pattern of misidentifying their workers on their annual earnings reports to SSA," said GAO. "For example, one employer averaged about 13,300 reports placed in the ESF per year over the period we analyzed, ranging from a low of 5,971 to a high of 33,448."
On Oct. 26, 2004, the SSA IG published a report on the Top 100 employers who filed the most no-match W-2s from 1997 to 2001. The IG discovered unmistakable patterns.
"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," said the IG. "Four of the remaining employers were in the hotel/retail industry, and one was a State agency. Yes, a "State agency" was one of the Top 100 filers of no-match W-2s with SSA. Which state? Again, it is anonymous.
But the IG did say employers with bad W-2s concentrate in certain states. "We found that 54 of the 100 employers had registered addresses in three states - California, Texas and Illinois," said the IG.
An Illinois company filed the most no-match W-2s -- 131,991 -- over the five years, but a Florida company had the highest percentage.
"In the case of the employer with the worst accuracy, SSA suspended 89 percent of the TY 2001 wage items submitted by an agricultural employer located in Florida," said the inspector general. "This represented 6,709 of the 7,497 wage items submitted by this employer."
For more than a decade, the federal government has suspected that employers who file large numbers of no-match W-2s may be knowingly hiring illegal aliens.
"SSA suspects that employers in certain high turnover industries (bars and restaurants, services, and agriculture) compound the problem because they may knowingly hire illegal aliens with fraudulent identification and are able to do so because there are no penalties imposed for their actions," said an SSA IG report published on Feb. 7, 2000. "Consequently, those employers who knowingly accept fraudulent documentation are free to conduct business as usual without regard to the disruption and harm caused to SSA's customers and to unknowing individuals whose identities are falsely used."
During President Bush's second term, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a regulation to require employers who received letters from SSA indicating they had no-match W-2s to double-check their records and clarify their accuracy with their workers if they did not want those no-match W-2s to be considered evidence of knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. The AFL-CIO and others sued over the proposal, a judge issued a preliminary injunction against it, and the Obama administration dropped it.
This week, I asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement whether any immigration enforcement had ever been taken against the still-anonymous employer who filed 37,375 no-match W-2s in 2005.
"The Worksite Enforcement Unit would have no way of knowing which company filed the W-2's, if a 'No-Match' letter was generated or if the unnamed company responded properly to a 'No-Match,'" said ICE spokesman Brandon Montgomery. "ICE HIS (Homeland Security Investigations) receives no official communication from either IRS or the Social Security Administration in regards to Employer Correction Request Letters (No Match Letters)."