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There exists a wide-spread misconception that Congress has recently enacted legislation forcing states to obtain Social Security numbers in the administration of certain state functions. As a consequence, lawmakers throughout the country are anxiously scrambling to enact a multitude of new State laws premised upon false assumptions.
The perpetuators of this misconception often cite two recently enacted federal laws - the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Control Act of 1996 - in support of their contention. The question then arises: Are the provisions contained within these two federal Acts really "requirements" which the states MUST enforce?
The fact is that NEITHER of these two new federal laws even purports to require states to obtain Social Security numbers for state functions. Furthermore, IF Congress HAD imposed such a federally mandated requirement - according to the U.S. Supreme Court - the law would violate the principle of "dual sovereignty" and would, therefore, be unenforceable.
Consider the following:
THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT OF 1996 (P.L. 104-208)
State Lawmakers often recite the now familiar line which goes like this: "The Illegal Immigration Control Act requires states to either place driver's social security numbers on the face of their licenses, or to complete a social security number verification process."
In reality, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Act simply DOES NOT REQUIRE states to modify their license issuance procedures, or to "enforce" a requirement for Social Security numbers. The federal Act ONLY establishes a requirement for FEDERAL AGENCIES to adhere.
Here is what P.L. 104-208, actually DOES SAY regarding SSNs:
THE WELFARE REFORM ACT OF 1996 (P.L. 104-193)
The other claim frequently parroted by State lawmakers is that the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 requires states to obtain Social Security numbers from ALL applicants for ALL State-issued licenses; including driver's licenses, occupational license, business license, hunting license, fishing license, boating license, professional license, etc.
Here again, the Welfare Reform Act DOES NOT impose a "requirement" upon the states. The Act merely amended the U.S. Code, Title 42, by adding new "GUIDELINES" for states to adhere to in establishing a State "plan" for the administration of welfare "BENEFITS" programs. States are subsequently granted funding for the various benefits programs based upon their plan's level of conformity with the federal guidelines.
Title 42 is subdivided into numerous Chapters, Subchapters, Parts, Subparts, and Sections. Chapter 7, entitled "Social Security," contains the funding provisions for all social benefits and welfare programs. Some of the more well known Chapter 7 programs include: Old-Age Assistance, Old-Age Survivors Disability Insurance, Grants to States for Unemployment Compensation, Grants to States for the Disabled, and Grants to States for Aid to Needy Families with Children.
Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part A, includes the "Aid to Families With Dependent Children" (AFDC) grant appropriations. Part A, Section 601 provides that:
"(27) provide that the State has in effect a plan approved under part D of this subchapter and operates a child support program in substantial compliance with such plan..."
And, Section 603 provides that, the Secretary of the Treasury shall pay grant money to all states which have adopted an "approved plan."
As can be seen from the foregoing, federal grant money will be made available to states which implement State plans incorporating the various provisions contained in the federal guidelines. Thus lays the backdrop for the "grant" provision presently causing all the confusion and misunderstanding regarding state "requirements" for Social Security numbers; which brings us to "Part D."
Part D establishes the "child support" funding-contingent guidelines. Part D provides that a State's "plan" must incorporate methods to (among other things) "locate absent parents." This is generally referred to as the "Dead-beat Dad" law. Part D, Section 654 provides that:
"(20) provide, to the extent required by section 666 of this title, that the State (A) shall have in effect all of the laws to improve child support enforcement effectiveness which are referred to in that section, and (B) shall implement the procedures which are prescribed in or pursuant to such laws..."
Therefor, the "requirements" set out under Title 42, Section 666, ONLY serve to establish the "procedures" for states to incorporate into their State "plan," which is then to be approved by the Secretary as a condition for the State to receive federal funding for welfare programs. Though it is easy to see how someone reading JUST section 666 alone, could MISCONSTRUE it as a compulsory federal requirement.
As shown here, NONE of the funding-contingent "procedures" set out in P.L. 104-193, constitute federal "requirements" which the states are compelled to enforce. If the states act to impose such requirements, they do so of their own accord and volition.
THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT, REGARDING FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS
Do the Courts consider these funding-contingent "requirements" lawful requirements in the sense that the states "must" enforce them? The answer is clearly - NO! In 1997, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in the Case of "Sheriffs Richard Mack and Jay Printz vs. The United States," that Congress cannot compel the states to enforce a federal law. The Court concluded that:
In conclusion, the states are not required by federal law to obtain Social Security numbers in the administration of state functions. And no one believes that Congress is going to allow the suspension of welfare funding to states who choose to NOT implement these measures - such will simply never happen.
And, Title 42 U.S. Code, section 408(a)(8) states that:
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