Several community groups gathered at the Social Security Office in Long Island City last week to protest what they call an “enforcement only” approach to immigration.
Demonstrators spoke out against no-match letters, which are documents sent to workers and employers when there is a discrepancy between an employee’s reported Social Security number and the one (if there is any) on file with the Social Security Administration.
Although the no-match system was designed to resolve such discrepancies, critics believe the Bush administration is using it to intimidate and weed out illegal immigrants.
The Department of Homeland Security recently proposed a new rule that would have required employers to fire their workers if a discrepancy was not resolved within 90 days. But last Wednesday, a federal court judge issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of the rule.
The ruling came after several groups — including the American Federation of Labor, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center — filed suit against the federal agency, calling its proposed rule discriminatory and a violation of workers’ rights.
Now, Queens immigrant groups are calling the judge’s decision a partial victory. And some advocates, like Deyanira Del Rio, director of the NYC Immigrant Financial Justice Network, are demanding an end to no-match letters altogether.
Del Rio said the no-match system only accounts for a small percentage of corrections in the Social Security Administration’s database, adding that the system often leads to abuse and intimidation of workers.
“The Social Security Administration wants to push us out,” added Gabriela Flores, of Queens Community House. “We want to be free to work in peace.”
Javier Valdes, director of special projects for the New York Immigration Coalition, said the government’s current system is broken. “We need to think more creatively about how we address immigration,” he said.
Protesters at Friday’s rally called for other far-reaching changes to federal immigration policy, including an end to federal raids and a more humane approach toward dealing with immigrant issues overall.
Norman Eng, of the New York Immigration Coalition, believes federal immigration policy should include a viable path to citizenship.
Jennifer Arieta, of the Jamaica-based advocacy group Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan, asked, “How much longer do we have to wait and see our families be ripped apart?”