The Department of Homeland Security has released a 44-page document that explains the rationale behind its no-match rule, which governs how employers should handle workers whose Social Security numbers don’t match those on file with the government. The document also tries to answer questions raised during a public comment period in early 2007 and a subsequent court ruling.

But it does little to change the no-match rule itself, says Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League.

“Nothing has changed,” Bedwell says. “What we are waiting on is the stay in the lawsuit, which is going to expire on the 28th of March. That will be the real key.”

The department released a previous version of the rule on June 14, 2007. But the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California enjoined it in late August.

Under the rule, the Social Security Administration will verify that Social Security numbers presented by employees match government records.

If the numbers don’t agree, the administration will send employers a correction request--commonly known as a no-match or mismatch letter.

During 2006, the Social Security Administration sent about 138,000 of those letters to employers.

If employers can’t clear up the discrepancies within 90 days, they must fire the workers or face sanctions or fines up to $10,000 for the first offense.

In some cases, the discrepancies are caused by clerical errors or by workers changing names for marriage or divorce.

Department officials say the newest document provides a more detailed analysis of how it developed the no-match policy.

"This supplement specifically addresses the three grounds on which the district court based its injunction,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a press release. “We have also filed an appeal and are pursuing these two paths simultaneously to get a resolution as quickly as possible."

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement will enforce the rule, should the court lift the injunction.

The department estimates it will cost an employer between $3,009 and $33,795, depending on the business size, to handle the proposed no-match rules, should the court allow them to move forward. That doesn’t count the cost of terminating a worker or finding a replacement.

The department will accept comments for 30 days on the document, called Supplemental Proposed Rulemaking, once it appears in the Federal Register.

To read the department’s 44-page response to comments received earlier and to the court ruling, visit

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