JUDGE TEMPORARILY BLOCKS federal mandate for employers to crack down on illegal immigrant employees

BY JULIA CHEEVER

A federal judge in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order today blocking a new Department of Homeland Security rule aimed at getting employers to aid in cracking down on illegal immigrants in the work force.

U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney said the AFL-CIO and local labor groups had “raised serious questions” as to whether the rule is consistent with federal laws.

The order will remain in effect until a hearing on the unions’ request for a preliminary injunction is heard by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco on Oct. 1.

The so-called “no match” rule is one of several administrative immigration enforcement measures announced by the Bush Administration earlier in August after Congress failed to pass an immigration reform law.

It requires employers to give workers 90 days to fix problems with Social Security numbers that don’t match information in the Social Security Administration database.

If the problem isn’t resolved, employers must take further steps that could include firing the worker. Those who fail to do so can be considered to be knowingly hiring illegal workers and could face criminal prosecution or fines of $2,500 to $14,000 per worker.

Labor groups claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the rule will result in discrimination against and possible firing of U.S. citizens and residents who are legal workers but have problems such as clerical errors with their Social Security numbers.

The temporary order bars the Department of Homeland Security from sending out letters instructing employers about the rule. It does not prevent the Social Security Administration from sending out the previously used type of no-match letters, which informed employers of questionable Social Security numbers but did not require further action.

The new rule had been scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 14.

A Homeland Security spokesman said Wednesday that the lawsuit is “completely without merit” and said, “We intend to fight it vigorously.”

In addition to the AFL-CIO, the plaintiffs include the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco Construction and Building Trades Council and the Central Labor Council of Alameda County.

Defendants include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Social Security Administration.

Bay City News

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