(Nov. 16) Social Security Administration officials indicated in mid-November the agency would delay issuing no-match letters to employers until 2008.

The agency said it delayed sending the letters this year because of a pending lawsuit challenging the Homeland Security Department’s worksite enforcement regulations.

Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle said the agency will resume the no-match letters in 2008 and focus on wage reporting for 2007, according to a Nov. 14 member alert from the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

While no-match letters have been sent out by the Social Security Administration for years, the Department of Homeland Security this year developed a guidance letter to require employers to more carefully enforce the hiring of undocumented workers. The guidance letter said employers must investigate any Social Security number discrepancy, leading eventually to termination of the employee if the work authorization remains in question.

Growers feared they would have to terminate a significant portion of their labor force because of the regulation.

The United Fresh Produce Association, along with American Nursery & Landscape Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other associations, are parties to the lawsuit, which was filed in California in August.

A federal judge in California on Oct. 10 had granted a preliminary injunction barring the agency from sending out the no-match letters. The judge ruled the DHS failed to analyze the impact of the regulation on small businesses.

The lawsuit prevented about 140,000 letters from being sent to employers this year with reference to about 8 million employees, government sources have said.