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DHS rescinds long-contested ‘no-match’ rule

WASHINGTON The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it has rescinded the controversial Social Security “no-match” rule that would have forced employers to fire workers because of discrepancies in their Social Security records.

DHS had said in July that it had decided to rescind the rule, which sparked an unsuccessful attempt by members of the Senate to block the agencyÕs effort.

The rescission will take effect Nov. 6, the DHS said.

Industry watchdogs applauded the move.

"We are very pleased that DHS heeded our concerns and did the right thing in scrapping these harmful regulations," said Michael J. Donohue, vice president of media relations for the National Restaurant Association. "The National Restaurant Association repeatedly cautioned federal officials about the regulations throughout the rulemaking process, filing official comments and supporting successful litigation.

"This rule would have caused tremendous difficulties for businesses and likely the loss of jobs for tens of thousands of legal workers due to reliance on inaccurate government databases," he continued. "Targeting employers with an enforcement-only approach, and a flawed one at that, is not the way to fix an immigration system that requires comprehensive overhaul."

Scott Vinson, vice president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants in Washington, D.C., called the rescinding of the no-match rule "good news for the industry."

However, he continued: "We'll have to wait and see what the overall impact will be. Based on recent conversations with enforcement officials, the department is looking to change its focus from large-scale raids that targeted illegals themselves to focus on bad actor/employers who have made it part of their business model to knowingly hire illegals and violate the law."

The foodservice industry has been fighting the no-match rule since it was issued in August 2007 by the Bush administration. To help it identify the estimated 12 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally, the government had hoped to use no-match letters routinely sent out by the Social Security Administration.

In 2007 the DHS said the government would alter the language of the no-match letters and potentially seek criminal sanctions against employers of illegal immigrants. Under the rule, DHS would be able to threaten employers with fines as high as $10,000 for failure to fire workers who are unable to reconcile Social Security account discrepancies within 90 days.

But before the initiative could be enacted, a labor coalition sued the DHS and SSA, resulting in a U.S. District Court judge's decision to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the SSA from sending out the letters.

Soon afterward, a second judge issued a preliminary injunction to extend the barrier against threatening no-match letters indefinitely and directed the DHS to submit a new proposal addressing the court's questions. At the time, the judge observed the no-match letters would cause "irreparable damage to innocent workers." The DHS made minor alterations but the injunction was not dropped.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected]

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