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Homeland Security issues revised ‘no-match’ rules

WASHINGTON The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it has revised its rules for so-called “no-match” letters to allay a court ruling that prevented the agency from requiring employers to fire workers who had unresolved discrepancies in their Social Security records.

The new rules spell out what intermediary steps employers can take if the Social Security information provided by employees fails to match what is in the Social Security Administration’s data banks. In that situation, the business hiring the employee is sent a no-match letter, alerting it to the discrepancy that had to be resolved.

Homeland Security had attempted to adopt a program whereby employees who failed to resolve the situation within 90 days would be fired by their employers. Businesses that failed to discharge the workers would have been subject to criminal sanctions. The effort was intended to curb illegal immigration by finding and eliminating hires who were using bogus Social Security documents.

Last year the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that inaccuracies in the Social Security database and other faults in the system might have cost many legitimate workers their jobs. The court also asserted that the 90-day rectification period was too short and that Homeland Security had not followed due process in considering the rule's potentially damaging effect on small businesses. It stopped Homeland Security from sendng no-match letters and proceeding with its plan.

Homeland Security said the new no-match rules would be published soon in the Federal Register and that it would ask the District Court to lift its injunction against sending no-match letters.

“The additional information in this supplemental rule addresses the specific items raised by the court, and we expect to be able to quickly implement it," Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, said in a statement.

In releasing a Supplemental Final Rule on the no-match plan on Thursday, Homeland Security noted that employers who follow the new procedures would be regarded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as having acted reasonably. The announcement did not indicate how that regard would affect sanctions or enforcement processes.

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