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If You Want Immigration Enforcement, Get the Data Right!

Category: Immigration
Posted: 08/18/07 14:46, Edited: 08/20/07 13:23

by Dave Mindeman

A good opinion piece in the Star Tribune, gives some explanation for the problems with current immigration policy. As the government tries to enhance its enforcement at the behest of immigration critics, the flaws and utter dysfunction of this system will become more transparent. This quote from the editorial points out one small part of that dysfunction.

The problem is that federal agencies haven't developed adequate tools for employers who want to comply. The government's premier employment-verification system, the "Basic Pilot" project, didn't protect Swift & Co. from a series of costly, embarrassing raids. The government's database for verifying the Social Security number of a job applicant has error rates as high as 1 in 10. A "no match" letter from the Social Security Administration, signaling that the number doesn't match the name, might mean that the job applicant is an undocumented alien, or simply that a digit was transposed on a job application. The agency known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with its heavy emphasis on criminal wrongdoing, simply intimidates many employers.

Stronger enforcement is certainly laudable, but if your basis for enforcement is information that is just flat out unreliable, what's the point? We can certainly be angry about the falsification of records by illegals, but caught up in the same net are the people who make honest mistakes or victims of identity theft or employees who work for employers who are not careful with employee information.

This is the "age of information" but our data base protection and record keeping is not keeping up.

Just to give you a practical example.... as a pharmacist, I have to deal with insurance data (and its problems) on a daily basis. There was a period of about a year in which Blue Cross was rejecting valid claims for their clients because of "invalid birth dates".... when we would call to find out the problem, there would always be a difference of 1 digit for the correct birthdate. Although I could never prove it, it looked like someone was incorrectly entering months transposed from written word to numbers, (i.e., June = 6, Blue Cross would record 5 instead). When Blue Cross was informed of the mistake, we would have to temporarily put the INCORRECT information in our computer to match theirs; while the patient would have to fill out another application form and send it for another round of processing. Stupid and a waste of time; yet payments could not get processed unless some accomodation was made.

If we want proper enforcement of immigration laws, then for Pete's sake, get the information right. So many innocent people could be affected and our economy will be saddled with unnecessary expense.

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