Employers get a reprieve this year from new federal employment rules that would have required businesses to fire workers who use false Social Security numbers.




The Social Security Administration announced recently that it won't send so-called "no-match" letters this year to more than 138,000 employers nationwide as part of its planned effort at making it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to keep jobs.




Under the Bush administration plan announced in August, employers would have had to show, beginning this month, they had either verified their workers' identities or fired them within 90 days of getting a letter from the government notifying them about Social Security numbers on their payroll that don't match the agency database.




The new rule was challenged by a coalition of labor unions, civil liberties groups and business interests. Such groups as the AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union argued in the lawsuit that legal workers and others might be fired unfairly simply because of paperwork snafus.




A federal court judge in San Francisco issued an injunction in October; the case is on appeal to the Ninth District Court of Appeals.




"The plaintiffs have demonstrated they will be irreparably harmed if DHS is permitted to enforce the new rule," U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer wrote in his October ruling that blocked the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration from enforcing the program.




A spokesman for Oregon's restaurant industry said Thursday what the federal government needs to do is enact comprehensive immigration reform, rather than taking a piecemeal approach to curbing illegal migration.




"There is a need for workers," said Bill Perry, director of government relations for the Oregon Restaurant Association, noting there has been a shortage of U.S. workers since 1971, and immigrants fill that gap.




"Nobody is going to argue that there are illegal workers here, but you just can't just try to fix one part of the problem," Perry said in an interview. "You need to enforce the border and do employment checks, but just doing one of these individual steps is going to be detrimental to somebody."




He added that such business sectors as construction and manufacturing would be equally hard hit by the program.




"All these people are leaving the workforce, but the economy is growing, so these workers are needed if you want the economy to grow," Perry said.




With a large number of agricultural workers believed to be working in the Rogue Valley, area ranchers worried that the new regulations would have a chilling effect on Oregon's $13 billion farm economy.




Ron Bjork of Eagle Point, president of the Jackson County Farm Bureau, said in an August interview that the then-planned regulations would be "pretty tough" on many local farmers, who would be forced to lay-off scores of already scarce farm laborers.




"The federal government is the one that caused this problem. They have got to get control of the borders," Bjork said. "They need to be the one to solve the problem (of illegal immigration) not put it on the backs of farmers or individual employers to solve."




covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.