The so called "no match" rule has died a long overdue death. Good riddance!

Introduced two years ago by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the "no match" rule was intended to up the ante for employers who intentionally, or sometimes inadvertently, hire people who are not eligible to work in the United States. The rule required verification that information provided by every worker at the time of hiring actually matched information on file with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If an employee provided information that could not be verified, for whatever reason, the employer would receive a "no match" letter from the SSA. The "no match" letter triggered a 90-day period during which the employer and employee could try and resolve the discrepancy. Failing that, the employer was required to fire the employee. The rule provided a complex series of requirements that provided a safe harbor for employers to avoid liability for hiring a worker who turned out to be ineligible to work.

Assuming for a moment that undocumented workers actually constitute a terrorism threat that should be managed by the DHS, which most horse farm owners would argue is far from a sure thing, the "no match" rule sounds like a relatively simple and straightforward way to curb the number of undocumented people in the workforce. There is a problem, however. By the SSA’s own admission, records maintained by the agency are riddled with inaccuracies. In December 2006, the SSA conducted an internal assessment and determined that approximately 18 million of the agency’s 245 million records (a little more than four per cent) are out of date and "could result in incorrect feedback." In other words, odds are that one out of every 25 attempts to match employee information with SSA records would be kicked back as a "no match" due to an error in the system rather than an employee’s actual ineligibility to work.

The "no match" rule drew immediate criticism from a variety of business and immigrant advocacy groups, who argued that the new rule would discriminate against legitimate foreign-born workers, or workers who appeared to be foreign-born, by discouraging gun-shy employers from hiring them. There also was concern that employers would receive "no match" letters due to mistakes in the records of Americans eligible to work in the United States. A federal court injunction blocking implementation was issued in California a few months after the rule was introduced.

This does not mean that employers now have carte blanche to hire undocumented workers. The DHS decision to drop the "no match" rule does not affect other immigration requirements for employers, including having all new employees complete a federal I-9 form providing documentation of a worker’s eligibility to work legally.

UPDATES: Past Horses and the Law postings have addressed the confidentiality of veterinary records and the dismal state of animal protection laws in some states, including Kentucky.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board recently proposed a rule that would eliminate confidentiality of veterinary records, at least for horses at New York tracks. The rule would require owners, trainers, and veterinarians to provide veterinary records at Board request for 45 days preceding a race in New York. The American Association of Equine Practitioners, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and a number of individuals have protested the proposed rule on confidentiality grounds. The idea behind the rule is that more transparency will decrease cheating. Presumably, however, anyone who administers a prohibited drug to a horse would be smart enough not to write it down.

In 2008, the Kentucky Legislature amended Kentucky Revised Statute 525.135 to make torture of a "domestic dog or cat" a Class D felony if the animal suffers "serious physical injury or death." Maximum punishment is five years in prison. Prior to the change, the first offense of torture of a dog or cat was a misdemeanor, regardless of the extent of injury. A Northern Kentucky man reportedly will be the first defendant sentenced under this law. He recently entered a plea of guilty to two counts of torture of a dog or cat after being charged with stabbing to death two cats during a burglary. Torture of horses and other animals in Kentucky remains a misdemeanor as animal cruelty in the second degree.