Date: Jul 08, 2009

IRVINE, CA (July 8, 2009) — Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Department will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the Social Security Administration No-Match Rule – a regulation issued by the Bush Administration in August, 2007 and enjoined by a U.S. District Court since it was introduced. The Rule was intended to address an employer's obligations in response to receipt of a social security number mismatch notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Rule stated that receipt of a SSA no-match letter could be used as evidence that the employer has constructive knowledge that an employee lacks work authorization. The No-Match Rule also made clear that an employer who did not follow the guidelines would be susceptible to an I-9 violation and possible fines in the event of a workplace audit or raid.

“This rule would have been devastating to the California and Arizona fresh fruit, vegetable and tree-nut industries and would have caused massive layoffs of employment-authorized workers and U.S. citizens, while dragging the economy deeper into recession,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, “I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for showing great leadership and quickly rescinding such a bad policy. The No-Match Rule wrongly presumed that if a worker has been named in a ‘no-match’ letter, then the worker is ineligible to work in the U.S. The reality is that the SSA database is not, and was never intended to be, an immigration database and does not contain real-time data on individuals’ immigration status or work authorization. We need an effective guest worker program and true immigration reform, such as the AgJOBS legislation, and we urge Congress to move this bill to the President’s desk this year.”

In March, Nassif wrote to Secretary Napolitano, with whom Western Growers has had a productive, professional relationship since her years as the Governor of Arizona, asking for the suspension of the DHS No-Match Rule and encouraging the Department to formulate a coherent policy relating to work site enforcement. A Western Growers core belief is that the U.S. economy needs additional workers to do many of the jobs that U.S. workers will not do, especially in agriculture. Immigration reform such as the bi-partisan bill AgJOBS which was reintroduced in May by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) is critical to agriculture, especially the producers of specialty crops which rely heavily on a foreign workforce to plant, harvest and process fresh fruits and vegetables. The H-2A agricultural guest worker program is beset by bureaucratic red tape and instability and economic requirements that many farmers cannot afford. Western Growers supports AgJOBS as the most effective vehicle for retaining the existing experienced agricultural workforce, not eligible for H-2A visas, and for providing adequate and lasting reform of the H-2A program.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose almost 3,000 members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and nearly 70 percent of the fresh fruit and tree nuts grown in Arizona and California, about one-half of the national’s fresh produce. Western Growers members provide the best medicine in the world.

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