Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Do-Over

In October, I posted on a federal judge's suspension of a rule promulgated by the White House to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants because the administration had not followed proper procedure in issuing the rule. The White House has now asked the court to allow it the time to run the survey it conveniently forgot to do before issuing the rule in August, according to this NY Times article.

...the administration plans to revise the rule to try to meet concerns raised by a federal judge and issue it again by late March, hoping to pass court scrutiny on the second try. The rule would have forced employers to fire workers within 90 days if their Social Security information could not be verified.

The government’s proposal was a response to an indefinite delay to the rule ordered Oct. 10 by the judge, Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in San Francisco. Judge Breyer found that the government had failed to follow proper procedures in issuing the rule and that it should have completed a survey of its impact on small business.

He also found that the Social Security database the government would use to verify workers’ status was full of errors, so the rule could lead to the dismissal of many thousands of workers who were American citizens or legal immigrants.

In a four-page motion filed Friday, the government, without acknowledging any flaws in the original rule, asked Judge Breyer to suspend the case so the Department of Homeland Security could rewrite the rule and conduct the small-business survey, which it expects to do by March 24. The government said that it wanted to “prevent the waste of judicial resources” and that it was confident the amended rule would “fully address the court’s concerns.”

The article makes it clear that the Department of Homeland Security will run the survey, but it is silent when it comes to the other issue raised by Judge Breyer. He noted that the Social Security Administration records are so full of errors that they could not be counted on for providing proof that a employee was or was not working legally. I assume the government is going to suggest to the court that half a loaf is better than none and will submit the "new" rule based only on the survey.

In the mean time, the rule remains suspended, at least until March. Unfortunately, this Congress has made it clear that it has no intentions of addressing any kind of immigration reform, so we can look for a reprise of the same kind of punitive rule at the end of March, 2008, keeping the GOP issue of immigration in front of the voters as the 2008 campaigns are in full swing.

Nice timing, that.

Still, the whole episode has been instructional. When this administration is pushed back, and hard, it back pedals. At least one branch of government has proven that. Now, if only the Democratic-led Congress would learn that lesson.



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