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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced July 8 that DHS will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the Social Security Administration's No-Match Rule, a regulation issued by the Bush administration in August 2007 and enjoined by a U.S. District Court since it was introduced.

The rule was intended to address an employer's obligations in response to receipt of a social security number mismatch notice from the Social Security Administration. The rule stated that receipt of an SSA no-match letter could be used as evidence that the employer has constructive knowledge that an employee lacks work authorization. The No-Match rule also made clear that an employer who did not follow the guidelines would be susceptible to an I-9 violation and possible fines in the event of a workplace audit or raid.

"This rule would have been devastating to the California and Arizona fresh fruit, vegetable and tree-nut industries and would have caused massive layoffs of employment-authorized workers and U.S. citizens, while dragging the economy deeper into recession," Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association, said in a July 8 press release. "I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for showing great leadership and quickly rescinding such a bad policy. The No-Match rule wrongly presumed that if a worker has been named in a no-match letter, then the worker is ineligible to work in the U.S. The reality is that the SSA database is not, and was never intended to be, an immigration database and does not contain real-time data on individuals' immigration status or work authorization. We need an effective guest worker program and true immigration reform, such as the AgJobs legislation, and we urge Congress to move this bill to the president's desk this year."

In March, Mr. Nassif wrote to Secretary Napolitano, with whom WGA has had a productive, professional relationship since her years as the governor of Arizona, asking for the suspension of the DHS No-Match rule and encouraging the department to formulate a coherent policy relating to work- site enforcement.

A WGA core belief is that the U.S. economy needs additional workers to do many of the jobs that U.S. workers will not do, especially in agriculture. Immigration reform such as the bi-partisan AgJobs bill, which was reintroduced in May by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), is critical to agriculture, especially the producers of specialty crops who rely heavily on a foreign workforce to plant, harvest and process fresh fruits and vegetables.

The H-2A agricultural guest worker program is beset by bureaucratic red tape and instability and economic requirements that many farmers cannot afford, according to the release. WGA supports AgJobs as the most effective vehicle for retaining the existing experienced agricultural workforce, not eligible for H-2A visas, and for providing adequate and lasting reform of the H-2A program.