Thursday, October 11, 2007

Federal Judge indefinitely blocks Social Security "No Match" Rules

A California federal judge yesterday placed an indefinite hold on the Bush Administration's proposed rules for the handling Social Security "no match" letters. The rules would have required employers, upon receipt of a no match letter from the SSA to either verify the offending employee's immigration/ citizenship status or terminate the employee. Today's New York Times does a nice job summarizing the judge's order and the fall out from it:

The judge, Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California, said the government had failed to follow proper procedures for issuing a new rule that would have forced employers to fire workers if their Social Security numbers could not be verified within three months. Judge Breyer chastised the Department of Homeland Security for making a policy change with "massive ramifications" for employers, without giving any legal explanation or conducting a required survey of the costs and impact for small businesses.... If allowed to take effect, the judge found, the rule could lead to the firing of many thousands of legally authorized workers, resulting in "irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers." ...

Some conservative lawmakers who argue for vigorous enforcement of the immigration laws as a priority said they were outraged by the judge’s ruling. "What part of 'illegal' does Judge Breyer not understand?" asked Representative Brian P. Bilbray, Republican of California and chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus. "Using a Social Security number that does not belong to you is a felony. Judge Breyer is compromising the rule of law principles that he took an oath to uphold." ...

Judge Breyer found that the Social Security database that the rule would draw upon was laden with errors not related to a worker’s immigration status, which could result in no-match letters being sent to legally authorized workers. "There is a strong likelihood that employers may simply fire employees who are unable to resolve the discrepancy within 90 days," even if they are legal, he wrote.

This decision indefinitely blocks the new rules until the court conducts a trial sometime next year and reaches a final decision. It is unlikely, however, that Judge Breyer will change his mind. Most likely, the Bush Administration will continue to push this issue through trial and into the appellate courts. A Democratic Administration in 2009, however, would almost certainly bring an end to this cause.