Oct 11, 2007

The "No-Match" Letter Is Not in the Mail: Federal Judge Suspends New Regulations

ssalogo.gifAs we previously posted here, there's a lawsuit underway in San Francisco, challenging the Department of Homeland Security's new regulations telling employers how to handle "no-match" letters. A coalition of labor, immigrants' rights, and business groups filed the lawsuit, asking the court to stop the new regulations from going into effect. And that's exactly what the court did on October 10, 2007, for at least the next few months.

The court issued a preliminary injunction: a court order that prevents the rules from going into effect while the lawsuit is pending. The court's decision found that serious questions had been raised as to whether the government followed required procedures, such as analyzing the effect the new regulations would have on small businesses. Because of these questions, and because allowing the regulations to go into effect would cause significant harm to both employers and employees, the judge put them on hold.

What happens next? The lawsuit continues, and the Social Security Administration finds a place to store the 141,000 no-match letters it planned to mail out. And here's an interesting twist: Judge Charles Breyer issued this decision. If that name sounds familiar, it's because his brother -- Justice Stephen Breyer -- sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, which could well decide this issue once and for all.

Lisa Guerin

UPDATE: In December 2007, there were a couple of new developments in this case. First, the Department of Homeland Security filed an appeal, asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the temporary injunction and allow the new rules to go into effect. And second, Judge Breyer (the district court judge) agreed to put off his decision on whether to issue a permanent injunction until March of 2008, to give the government a chance to address the concerns that led Judge Breyer to issue the preliminary injunction.