Yesterday Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California halted implementation of the "no match rule," effectively undermining the Bush administration's strategy to reign in illegal immigration, the New York Times reports. The rule would have required employers to fire workers within 90 days of receiving a letter from the Social Security Administration that an employee's identity did not match the agency's records. The idea behind the rule is that illegal immigrants who often must use false papers to obtain jobs would be prevented from doing so. Those employers who did not fire such workers would risk prosecution for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Breyer's ruling is a rebuke to the Department of Homeland Security, which proposed the regulation, and the White House, which has accomplished nothing on the immigration front since legislation went belly up this Spring. In his decision, Breyer found that the change would have "massive ramifications" for employers and that it was irresponsible to enforce such a change without first conducting a survey of cost and impact for small business. In an unusual alliance, labor groups including the AFL-CIO and business organizations like the United States Chamber of Commerce came together to file the lawsuit. The Chamber applauded yesterday's decision, and issued a statement today arguing that the "logical next step is for the federal government to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Attempts to regulate immigration on a piecemeal basis—whether by federal or state action—create a patchwork of inconsistent requirements that would have a negative effect on the US economy."

Although Breyer's injunction is preliminary—the court may not reach a final decision on the case for many months—yesterday's decision made clear that Breyer is skeptical of the government's argument that the rule would impose no "new or additional costs" on employers. In a September 18 letter, the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, which is independent from the SBA, also raised this concern, arguing that the government had not done its necessary analysis on the impact on small business before announcing the new regulation. The SBA, which supported the rule, did not respond to calls.

As an employer what do you think of the no-match rule? What kind of legislation would you propose to deal with illegal immigration? Which presidential candidates do you think are best equipped to deal with these issues?