Top Democrat warns Cintas against firing illegal immigrants
A Mississippi Democrat in line to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has warned the nation’s largest uniform supplier it faces criminal charges if it follows a White House proposal to recheck workers with mismatched Social Security numbers and fire those who cannot resolve the discrepancy in 60 days.
Rep. Bennie Thompson said in a letter to Cintas Corp. it could be charged with “illegal activities in violationofstateandfederallaw”ifany of its 32,000 employees are terminated because they gave incorrect SocialSecuritynumberstobehired.
“I am deeply troubled by Cintas’ recent policy change regarding the Social Security Administration’s ‘no match’ letters,” Mr. Thompson said in the Nov. 2 letter. “It is my understanding that hundreds of Cintas’ immigrant workers have received these letters. I am extremely concerned about any potentially discriminatory actions targeting this community.”
In June, President Bush proposed new guidelines concerning “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration, saying he wanted to make it easier for employers to verify workers’ eligibility and continue to hold them accountable for those they hire.
TheDepartmentofHomelandSecurity followed up on that announcement on Nov. 27, formally releasing new regulations to help businesses comply with hiring requirements intended to reduce the hiring of illegal aliens—includingsettingguidelines for businesses when handling “nomatch” letters from the Social Security Administration.
Theproposedregulationissubject to a 60-day public comment period.
“Most businesses want to do the right thing when it comes to employing legal workers,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “These new regulations will give U.S. businesses the necessary tools to increase the likelihood that they are employing workers consistent with our laws.
“They also help us to identify and prosecute employers who are blatantly abusing our immigration system.”
But Mr. Thompson called the “no-match” letters a threat to workers who fail to reverify their information and called Cintas’ actions a “rash enactment of a proposed DHS regulation.” He said that by implementing “this incomplete regulation,” Cintas could be in violation of federal immigration law.
Theseven-termcongressmanalso said before the proposal becomes law, it must go through a rule-making process, “which could radically change the regulation or kill it all together.”
Cintas has issued letters to 400 employeesinfivestatestellingthem theywillbeindefinitelysuspendedif they cannot resolve their mismatched Social Security number within 60 days.
“Cintas, like all employers, has a legal obligation to ensure all employees are legally authorized to work in theU.S.,”thefirmsaidinastatement. “Cintas has not terminated any employees due to the Social Security mismatchesandplanstocontinueits policy of placing these employees on indefinite leave until they produce the required documentation.”
In his letter, Mr. Thompson said his “apprehension” over the proposed policy was echoed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which said the proposalcouldresultin“circumstances in which employers have incentives to take actions that violate [. . . ] nondiscriminatory provisions.”
As Homeland Security Committee chairman, he would set the panel’sagenda.EarlierinNovember, he also said Democrats planned to “revisit” legislation mandating 698 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border and might seek to scrap the plan.