Labor & Employment

Judge Stops Planned SS# Match Program

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In a blow to the Bush administration, a federal judge has granted a temporary injunction halting a planned program to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. It would have required employers to confirm with the government that workers’ social security numbers are valid, but is fraught with problems, the judge held.

Sought by an unusual alliance of organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union, the injunction is based on a determination by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer that a federal program to confirm the validity of workers’ social security numbers isn’t accurate enough and would potentially cause chaos in the labor market, reports the Washington Post.

“There can be no doubt that the effects of the [program]’s implementation will be severe,” writes the San Francisco-based Breyer, saying that it would result in “irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.”

His ruling also underlines “the gulf between Washington politicians’ rhetoric about the need to curtail illegal immigration and the economic reality of many U.S. employers’ reliance on illegal labor, as well as to the government’s inability to find adequate tools for identifying illegal workers,” writes the Post. Employers reportedly might have been pressured by the program to fire some 8.7 million workers with suspect social security numbers.

Although persuasive rather than precedential, Breyer’s decision appears to be potentially good news for the state of Illinois. As discussed in an earlier post, the state was recently sued by the federal government for passing a law banning employers from participating in what appears to be the same employee-verification program at issue in Breyer’s ruling.

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