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No Match Letters

Here is an article I wrote for my reporting class (Jour 3121) on "no match" letters. It's a little dated, but the issue is still a hot topic.


The idea for this story came after I attended the Civil Rights Commission's monthly meeting in early October. There was a lot of bureaucratic/logistical actions taken for the first thirty minutes or so until one of the commissioners raised a very newsworthy item about no match letters in San Francisco. Mr. Higinbotham did an excellent job of selling the importance of the issue. After the meeting, I went up and talked to the commissioner and received copies of articles and charts he brought with him. Luckily, he was very cooperative and started talking to me about his experience running restaurants and the whole employer/employee relationship. He really gave me some perspective on the employer's side of the issue. My talk with the commissioner jump started my reporting and I started doing some Web research. I found the Homeland Security homepage where I found a lengthy transcript of a press conference with Michael Chertoff concerning no match letters. I pulled most of my background info from this Web site. I also contacted Katherine Fennelly by searching experts.umn.edu. Professor Fennelly shared a couple of anecdotes about people she knew who were directly affected by no match letters, and she provided a lot of reasons why the system is not completely effective. Professor Fennelly was also very cooperative in sharing her knowledge. I discovered that asking nicely and explaining my purpose (I know this sounds very obvious) helped my sources to open up. There is always a chance they'll say no, but I think getting over the fear of rejection (sounds corny) is vital for news reporting. Once I started making the calls, going to meetings, and doing some research, I found the reporting process very interesting and fun; it's not something I do on a regular basis. Writing for print is not my forte but I definitely enjoyed the process of discovery.

Minneapolis officials have raised concerns about how to deal with the Bush administration’s plan to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.
That plan hit a snag last Wednesday when a federal judge in San Francisco stopped it from taking effect there.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he blocked the plan because of its potential to harm innocent workers and employers.
The plan, introduced in August by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, involves sending “no match? letters to thousands of employers whose workers’ names and Social Security numbers do not match government records.
Employers are required to fire these employees within 90 days of receiving their letter or face stiff penalties.
Commissioner Arthur Higinbotham of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission raised the issue of “no match? letters at their monthly meeting Tuesday.
As a former restaurant owner, Higinbotham says he understands the concerns businesses have about firing workers.
“The role of the commission should be to distribute the rules and regulations so employers and employees are not intimidated,? Higinbotham said.
The new policy has faced criticism because of problems with exact matches.
“Incidents of error in no match letters are extremely high,? said Katherine Fennelly, immigration and public policy professor at the University of Minnesota.
Fennelly said names on records can be misspelled and change altogether after marriage.
The best way to end undocumented labor is to issue visas for low-skilled workers, Fennelly said.