The decision Wednesday was disappointing, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, but wasn't more than a "bump in the road" in the agency's drive to vigorously enforce laws aimed at keeping illegal immigrants out of the workforce.
The government will evaluate the "modest legal obstacles" presented by the judge, addressing them in litigation or outside court, as it examines its options and determines whether to appeal the decision, Chertoff said.
"I don't think there's anything in the judge's ruling that is insurmountable," Chertoff told The Associated Press by telephone. "The key is to move forward. We're committed to using every tool available to enforce our immigration laws."
Opponents of the measure are pleased with this result:
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security could not go ahead with their plan to send joint letters warning businesses they'll face penalties if they keep workers whose Social Security numbers don't match their names.
Breyer said the new work-site rule would likely impose hardships on businesses and their workers. Employers would incur new costs to comply with the regulation that the government hasn't evaluated, and innocent workers unable to correct mistakes in their records in the given time would lose their jobs, the judge wrote.
"The plaintiffs have demonstrated they will be irreparably harmed if DHS is permitted to enforce the new rule," Breyer wrote.
The so-called "no match" letters, including a Department of Homeland Security warning, were supposed to start going out in September but were held after labor groups and immigrant activists filed a federal lawsuit.