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Social Security Match Plan Raises Concerns Busin

By Jenalia Moreno Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Nov. 22, 2007
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One of Houston’s largest minority-owned firms, Tony Grijalva’s G&A Partners, stays busy.
In addition to providing tax and business consulting services, the human resources firm also has a U.S. Department of Commerce contract to manage the Houston Minority Business Development Center.

And now that immigration regulations are getting tougher — a new but currently delayed rule, for instance, requires employers to fire any worker whose Social Security number and name don’t match — the firm is getting queries from the owners of Houston restaurants, hotels and construction firms concerned about how the changes would affect their businesses.

Grijalva, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer, spoke recently with Chronicle reporter Jenalia Moreno. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: Do you think the Department of Homeland Security’s ruling regarding the Social Security match will eventually be implemented?
A: I think it will be. It’s just a matter of time. I think there may be some abbreviations to that.
One of the saving graces, I guess, is that it’s an election year, and nobody wants to touch the subject.
Maybe because of that, it may get delayed more than a few months, maybe as much as a year or so.

Q: With the administration cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, what can employers do to protect themselves?
A: I think they are going to have to be proactive. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to look at your work force and see what you can do to mitigate any surprises later on, because they are talking about some hefty penalties.

Q: What should HR people do if they receive a no-match letter, and what tips would you give?
A: There are going to be a lot of instances where no-match letters will pop up on anybody simply because of typos.

There’s literally hundreds of reasons why a no-match letter would come up.
Having to deal with that volume, especially for a large employer, is going to be a pain.
Then you have to investigate and make sure if the name was spelled right.
One option is to outsource some of those functions to somebody who does know so there are no surprises later on.

Q: Are you seeing an increase in Mexican investors in the Houston area?
A: We’ve seen an increase, especially the high-net-worth individuals moving to Texas — to The Woodlands, to be exact. These are all people with money and substantial resources coming here to invest.
Safety is a big problem in Mexico, and recently, with the elections, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador almost won, and that scared a lot of people. It’s very easy to live here and go back and forth to Mexico.
And I have a number of clients from Mexico. These are Mexican companies who have a presence in Houston or in Texas or individuals who have investments. They reside over there, and we take care of all of their taxes and any compliance issues with the government.

Q: What are some of the challenges for minority-owned businesses in Houston?
A: The eternal challenge is capital — to be able to secure capital either through loans or investments. The other one is to be aware of federal programs.

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