Judge blocks implementation of “no-match” rule

On Oct. 10, Judge Charles R. Breyer of the San Francisco Federal District Court granted a preliminary injunction against the "no-match" rule, barring the Bush administration from implementing the planned crackdown on companies that employ illegal immigrants. This decision came 10 days after Breyer extended a temporary ban on the rule.

The no-match rule establishes steps employers must follow when they receive a no-match letter, which is a notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that an employee's identity information does not match agency records. Originally scheduled to take effect Sept. 14, the rule mandates that if an employee cannot explain the mismatch within 90 days, the employer must fire the employee or risk prosecution for having "constructive knowledge" of hiring an illegal immigrant.

In the Oct. 10 ruling, Breyer expressed his concerns, including labor organizations' claims that SSA's records contain many errors and could result in unjust firings of legal workers and U.S. citizens, as well as the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has exceeded its authority by improperly seeking to use confidential information from SSA to enforce immigration laws.

"The government's proposal to disseminate no-match letters affecting more than 8 million workers will, under the mandated timeline, result in the termination of employment to lawfully employed workers," Breyer wrote in his ruling. "Moreover, the threat of criminal prosecution ... reflects a major change in DHS policy."

Breyer also noted the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a 1980 law that requires the government to seriously consider the cost of regulations that would significantly burden small business owners. He says the law may have been ignored by the government in this situation.

The lawsuit was brought against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union, AFL-CIO and various San Francisco labor organizations; on Sept. 7, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several national small-business associations, including NRCA, joined the lawsuit. The plaintiffs were pleased with the outcome.

"This is a significant step toward overturning this unlawful rule, which would give employers an even stronger way to keep workers from freely forming unions," says AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. "More than 70 percent of SSA discrepancies refer to U.S. citizens."

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff says the Bush administration will consider an appeal and continue to enforce immigration laws.

"Today's ruling is yet another reminder of why we need Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, he says. "The American people have been loud and clear about their desire to see our nation's immigration laws enforced."

An analysis of 2005 census data by the Pew Hispanic Center states that 7.2 million illegal immigrants account for at least 10 percent of low-skilled U.S. workers and 5 percent of the total U.S. work force. Illegal immigrants constitute 24 percent of workers in farming, 17 percent in cleaning, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation.

Date : 10/12/2007