Pressure to pass immigration reform will intensify as millions of undocumented workers lose jobs as a result of a crackdown by the Social Security Administration, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said Thursday.
“What will happen over the course of the next two months is several million workers will be laid off or fired and there is no one to take their place,” Craig told the Boise Rotary Club.
Craig said the Bush Administration is sending “hundreds of thousands” of letters to employers about bogus Social Security numbers. “Sorry, that name and that number don’t match, or we don’t have that number, or that number belongs to somebody who’s already on Social Security—that’s a mismatch,” Craig said.
“Then you must do one of two things. You’ve either got to check the background of your employee, or you’ve got to fire them and get them off your payroll. And if you don’t do that, then you’re liable for the following fines starting at about 30-plus-thousands of dollars. That’s the law. It’s being enforced, and it should be enforced.”
Consumers will feel the impact of the unprecedented enforcement action. Craig said $3.5 billion worth of crops rotted for lack of workers last year. He predicted that figure will double because many crops are “highly dependent on the hands of working people.”
Craig’s AgJobs bill would allow 1.5 million guest farmworkers to obtain “blue cards” over five years. They would be eligible for “green cards”—permanent worker status—within three to five years, after paying a $500 fine and showing they are current on taxes. AgJobs is part of an immigration package stalled largely because of opposition to legalizing undocumented workers.
But if immigration laws aren’t reformed, Craig said, the economy will not grow at the 3.5 percent rate he said is necessary to support Social Security benefits earned by baby boomers.