Government Abandons Current "No Match" Rule Harmful to Legal Workers

November 24, 2007

Homeland Security Department to Issue Revised Rule Still Relying on Flawed Social Security Database

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

SAN FRANCISCO – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abandoned its attempt to enforce its proposed "no match" rule that would improperly use social security records for immigration enforcement. In a late Friday afternoon court filing the day after Thanksgiving in federal court in San Francisco, DHS requested that a lawsuit challenging the rule be put on hold until March 2008. The government plans to publish a revised rule in December 2007 that it claims will pass legal muster.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and labor groups to block the proposed "no match" rule which would require employers to penalize or fire U.S. citizens and legal workers whose social security numbers don't match up with the Social Security Administration (SSA) database. The lawsuit charges that the SSA database is fundamentally flawed and error-prone, and that the rule would result in the firing of countless legal workers as well as discrimination against those who look or sound "foreign."

Last month, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer issued a preliminary order stopping the government from enforcing the proposed rule – which would affect more than eight million workers – finding that it would cause irreparable harm to both innocent workers and employers.

The SSA's own Inspector General found that more than 70% of the discrepancies in the SSA database belong to native-born U.S. citizens. Discrepancies between workers' social security numbers and SSA records can result from many innocent factors including clerical errors, name changes due to marriage or divorce, or the common use of multiple surnames.

The statements below can be attributed to the following participants in the lawsuit:

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO:
"The Bush administration essentially admitted that the rule is unlawful. We've said all along that DHS had no authority to adopt this rule, which is just another Bush anti-worker initiative. As Judge Breyer found, more than half a million working women and men would have been affected by the rule, and many risked being fired even though fully authorized to work."

Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and one of the attorneys in the lawsuit:
"The government saw the handwriting on the wall and abandoned its failed effort to defend this rule. But DHS is continuing down this disastrous path of punishing citizens and legal workers by using the fatally-flawed database. DHS should finally abandon this illegal approach instead of repeating the same mistake."

Marielena Hincapié, Staff Attorney and Director of Programs at NILC:
"No matter how DHS alters its rule, any use of a social security mismatch to assume immigration status will trap workers in a bureaucratic nightmare and punish them unfairly. Employers should recognize that the government's decision not to defend the illegal DHS rule means that businesses must not apply it or they would risk legal challenges by employees who would suffer discrimination and be adversely affected."

Sharon Cornu, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Alameda County AFL-CIO:
"The illegal DHS rule harms workers and is a thinly-veiled effort to attack the wages and working conditions of the American workforce."

In addition to the AFL-CIO, which is represented by the law firm of Altshuler Berzon LLP, other parties bringing the lawsuit include the Central Labor Council of Alameda County, represented by the ACLU, the ACLU of Northern California, NILC, as well as the San Francisco Labor Council and the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, represented by Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld.

In addition to Guttentag and Hincapié, lawyers on the case include Scott Kronland, Stephen Berzon, Jonathan Weissglass, Linda Lye and Danielle Leonard of Altshuler Berzon LLP; Jonathan Hiatt, James Coppess and Ana Avendaño of the AFL-CIO; Jennifer Chang, Mónica M. Ramírez, and Omar Jadwat of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Alan Schlosser and Julia Mass of the ACLU of Northern California; Linton Joaquin and Monica Guizar of NILC; and David Rosenfeld and Manjari Chawla of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld.

Legal documents and other information about the lawsuit can be found at: www.aclu.org/nomatch

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