Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

September 13, 2007

Commissioner: “No Match” Process - No Good for Farmers

Writes President Bush to Expresses Dissatisfaction for New Immigration Regs

New York State Agriculture Commissioner today wrote to President George W. Bush to express his concern with the newly established immigration regulations, stressing that the "no match" process will be bad for New York farmers by placing an undue enforcement burden on family businesses.

As of August 15, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requiring all farmers and other employers to take additional steps to protect themselves from liability when notified that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is unable to match an employee’s name and social security number to its records. The new guidelines require employers to resolve the discrepancies within 90 days of SSA notification.

"While I understand the importance of addressing this issue in light of the failure to reform the nation’s immigration system, I am deeply concerned that the methods outlined will do little to establish what is truly needed – a reasonable framework within which employers can work to ensure the viability of their businesses and secure a reliable workforce," the Commissioner said in his letter to President Bush.

The Commissioner is particularly concerned with the increased responsibility placed on employers to ensure the legitimacy of their workforce by adhering to a strict verification protocol. Should the employer fail to follow the guidelines, they may be deemed to have had constructive knowledge that the employee is unauthorized to work in the United States. Further, the penalty for this offense was increased by approximately 25 percent.

To help defend farmers who are trying to comply with the new regulation, the Commissioner asked if there would be built-in legal protections for employers obtaining clarifying information from workers with inaccurate information. He also inquired into innovations in identity theft technology, how to verify seasonal employees who already left and how to reconcile contradictions between DHS’s new 90-day termination policy and SSA policy that prohibits the use of such letters as grounds for employee termination. Unless these and other issues are clarified, this policy is likely to be arbitrarily interpreted and inconsistently enforced.

"The farmers of New York State, and the country, deserve a stable workforce through an improved temporary agricultural labor program and solutions for a year-round workforce. Our country was literally built by immigrants, and our agricultural industry remains a viable component of our economy because of their continued contribution on our farms. Therefore, I respectfully request that the federal government not place an expensive, undue enforcement burden on these family businesses."

Congress has thus far been unable to agree on a comprehensive immigration reform package, causing DHS to assert this "interim-fix" is necessary in lieu of such an initiative, despite the significant burden it could place on employers.

New York State is home to more than 35,000 farms that produce dairy products, apples, grapes, honey, wines and other fruits and vegetables which contribute nearly $4 billion annually to the state’s economy. Many farmers have long and personal relationships with the migrant workers that return each year to harvest New York’s diverse agricultural bounty. Farmers respect these highly-qualified workers, who leave their homeland and families to help ensure our safe, abundant and local food supply.

A recent study commissioned by the Farm Credit Associations of New York conservatively estimates that if the migrant workforce is lost, New York State could lose approximately 900 farms, $195 million in production value and over 200,000 acres of land in agricultural production over the next two years.

2007 Press Releases