The Bush administration will suspend its legal defense of a new rule issued in August to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, conceding a hard-fought opening round in a court battle over a central measure in its strategy to curb illegal immigration, according to government papers filed late Friday in federal court.
Instead, 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 Northern District Court in San Francisco. 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 U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
In a four-page motion filed Friday, the government, without acknowledging any flaws in the original rule, asked 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."
Homeland Security officials said they were not abandoning the rule and were still considering an appeal of Judge Breyer's ruling.
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