NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 26, 2006

Two federal agencies are refusing to turn over a mountain of data that investigators could use to indict the nation's burgeoning work force of illegal immigrants and the firms that employ them, according to the Knight Ridder news syndicate.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration routinely collect the names and addresses of millions of people who are using bogus Social Security numbers, their wage records, and the identities of their employers. For instance, according to an analysis by Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer:

  • One internal study found that a restaurant company had submitted 4,100 duplicate Social Security numbers for workers.
  • Other firms submit inaccurate names or numbers reports for nearly all of their employees.
  • One child's Social Security number was used 742 times by workers in 42 states.

"That's the kind of evidence we want," said Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney in Arizona. "Anything that suggests they had knowledge . . . is a good starting point. If you see the same Social Security number a thousand times, it's kind of hard for them to argue they didn't know." However:

  • The two agencies don't analyze their data to root out likely immigration fraud, and they won't share their millions of records so that law enforcement agencies can either. Privacy laws, they say, prohibit them from sharing their files with anyone, except in rare criminal investigations.
  • But the agencies don't even use the power they have. The IRS doesn't fine even the most egregious employers who repeatedly submit inaccurate data about their workers. Social Security does virtually nothing to alert citizens whose Social Security numbers are being used by others.

Source: Knight Ridder, "Data on illegal immigrants kept secret; 2 agencies cite privacy in denying info to prosecutors," Tucson Citizen, April 24, 2006.

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