No Match for Bureaucracy

You may have been Uptown a couple of weeks ago and noticed picketers outside the D’amico and Sons restaurant at 2210 Hennepin who were, in my opinion, bringing attention to an escalating issue regarding the U.S. workforce. The protesters were reacting to D’amico and Partners’ termination of 15 Latino employees from a “no-match list” after they did not, or were not able to reconcile their social security information.

From what I can tell, a no-match list consists of people whose social security numbers do not match their names and other personal information, therefore not validating their eligibility to work in the States. This sample employee no-match letter from the National Immigration Law Center asserts that a no-match does not mean termination of employment, and that no-matches may be clerical errors, or something else not necessarily indicative of “illegal” status.

However, the Department of Homeland security has been trying to install a law requiring employers to terminate no-match employees. The law, according to the NY Times, was blocked last October to protect businesses, but the DHS is trying to impose it again.

I think there is some debate as to whether D’amico and Partners was discriminating against Latino employees, or if the company was within its legal jurisdiction. An employer can pay a massive fine for not providing valid social security information for no-match employees, so I can see why nervous human resources departments might take stringent action with this no-match law dangling over their heads. In a company-wide letter to employees issued on March 31st, which I have a hard copy of, D’amico said that it gave no-match employees over seven months to resolve their information, and provided a Spanish interpreter in September 2007 to aid in resolution. The no-match law faltered last October, so the company was clearly trying to protect itself early. But since the law was blocked, it seems that employers are now doggy-paddling in a gray area between discrimination and illegal employment of immigrants.

In an article on the myths and realities of Mexicans in Minnesota originally run in the Pioneer Press, Bruce Corrie says:

They take our jobs: If this statement is aimed at citizens, it is wrong, as these workers compete in the market for work. If it is aimed at undocumented workers, the kinds of jobs these workers do are in the low-wage, back-breaking, finger-numbing and high-turnover tasks that most people do not want to do.

I’m inclined to agree, and having worked in restaurants for over a decade, I can attest to the large percentage of staff that is Latino and/or of immigrant status in both the front and the back of the house. They often start with the work that many people won’t deign to do for minimum wage, then work their way up to better positions. I’ve chatted with servers who have mentioned that their Minneapolis restaurants have been compelled to let people go too, some places finding themselves shortstaffed and having to find temporary help.

It’s led me to wonder who is going to take the biggest blow from stricter immigration laws, which I think is a common debate these days. A Mexican co-worker of mine posited that it could be the States, because “Mexicans lose their jobs and have to go home, but you don’t have us anymore.” Which is a good point, the States would lose a large portion of the workforce and the money those people put back into the economy through consumption.

So, maybe we’re not feeling the full effect yet, but getting a meal at your local grub hub may take longer and longer because the place is shortstaffed, due to the government deciding that things just don’t match. And that would be just the beginning.

3 Comments so far

  1. Art (artallen) on April 20th, 2008 @ 9:58 am

    Exactly! It is pretty obvious to me that the xenophobic streak in politics has outshone the pro-free market streak in this particular case. It is incredibly anti-free market to keep out migrant workers who want to come in to fill jobs that need to be filled, so to me the only solution is to make legal immigration easier. Not this "guest worker" garbage, but permanent legal residency. Why not? Might they pollute our culture with their scary Latino ways?

    And as for the no-match policy, I sympathize with the employers: the nebulous policy makes it hard to do anything but take knee-jerk action, which is bad for people and bad for business. But what’s the alternative? Thousands in fines? Bad business is better than shutting down, I think.


  2. greg on April 21st, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    So, maybe we’re not feeling the full effect yet, but getting a meal at your local grub hub may take longer and longer because the place is shortstaffed, due to the government deciding that things just don’t match.
    But I suppose enforcing the law shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenience. If you’re not illegal, you shouldn’t have a problem. Just fix your paperwork, right? :)


  3. Erica M (ericam) on April 23rd, 2008 @ 10:55 am

    This sounds similar to what Best Brands did in November, but D’Amico’s gave its employees a lot longer to reconcile the differences.

    I understand that companies have to protect themselves, but is there any gain in trying to comply with laws that don’t actually exist yet? At the same time, MN is an at will employment state. A company can fire you for less cause than this no-match letter issue.



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