(Nov. 30) The White House has not given up the fight to compel employers to more strictly enforce immigration law.

Despite a U.S. District Court ruling in California Oct. 10 that stopped the Bush administration from beginning a crackdown on employers who receive no-match letters from the Social Security Administration, the White House has asked the court to oversee new rulemaking on no-match enforcement.

On Oct. 10, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in California had stopped the government from mailing Social Security “no-match” letters to 140,000 U.S. employers. He said then the Department of Homeland Security didn’t fulfill its requirements to assess the impact of the regulation on small businesses and also questioned the accuracy of the Social Security Administration database.

Now, the administration has asked Breyer to monitor the rulemaking and allow it to continue, said Craig Regelbrugge, senior director of government relations for the American Nursery and Landscape Association, Washington, D.C., and spokesman for the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

Regelbrugge said Nov. 28 it was likely the court would agree to the White House request.

By not appealing the case, the administration may still have time to issue a final rule before the end President Bush’s second term, he said.

Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., said in an opinion piece published Nov. 20 in The Wall Street Journal that the administration’s approach to the no-match enforcement was poised to hurt agriculture.

“If the DHS’s no-match program had gone forward, America’s domestic food supply would have been irreparably damaged. Small farm owners would have gone out of business and large operators could have taken their operations abroad — taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them,” Nassif wrote.

If the court agrees with the White House request, the administration’s revised proposed rule on no-match enforcement could be published in December or January, Regelbrugge said. With a 45-day comment period likely, he said it is possible to see a final rule year in place for worksite enforcement of the no-match rule by mid-2008.

Implementation of tougher enforcement of the no-match rule without broader immigration reform is unacceptable, Regelbrugge said.

Any no-match rule that goes forward is likely to affect the most experienced farm workers the most, he warned.

The DHS plan originally called on employers to fire employees within 90 days if mismatches with the Social Security numbers could not be resolved.

Under a no-match enforcement scenario, Regelbrugge said highly seasonal or short term farm workers probably would still be able to move from employer to employer before no-match letters catch up with them.

However, the year-round or long season farm worker may be deeply hurt, he said. For example, mushroom growers who use workers throughout the year could face devastating losses of their workforce, he said.