Activists in Chicago are calling the decision by the federal government to end “no-match letters” a win for immigrant workers.
The Social Security Administration announced this month it was ending the practice of mailing “Employer Correction Request Notices” to employers. The notices, better known as “no-match letters,” were sent to workplaces when an employee’s name or Social Security number on W-2 forms did not match the agency’s records.
The errors could create issues for a worker who later seeks Social Security benefits, according to the agency.
The federal agency said it will instead focus on “efforts on making it a better, easier and more convenient experience for employers to report and correct wages electronically.”
Immigration advocates said the notices were used to target immigrant workers. The letters caused some people to lose their jobs or were used as a form of retaliation against immigrant workers who were organizing to address workplace conditions, Jessie Hahn, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said during a virtual news conference.
Jorge Mújica of Arise Chicago said immigrant workers had reached out to the Chicago-based organization, which advocates for workers, the past two years.
“Many thousands of essential workers who had been producing and packing and transporting and many times delivering food to the door of those working remotely were hit with no-match letters again,” Mújica said. “Essential workers started losing their jobs because of the mistakes of the Social Security Administration database.”
In 2020, the agency sent 791,000 notices for tax year 2019, according to the agency. It was a decrease from the 803,000 notices sent in 2019 for tax year 2018.
In March, a dozen members of Congress, including some from Illinois, wrote to the federal agency asking it to suspend the use of no-match letters. U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, D-Chicago, in a video message played during the virtual conference said he was among those who sent the letter, describing the no-match letters as costly and putting workers in a vulnerable position.
Alfredo Sánchez, a board member of Arise Chicago, said he was abruptly fired from a job at a Loop restaurant years ago after his employer received a letter.
“That was before I knew Arise Chicago,” Sánchez said. “Arise Chicago showed me my rights, and I learned my rights. I learned that these letters are just for errors to be fixed not for firing.”
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.