This week a House-Senate panel reconciling budget measures voted to extend for three years the E-Verify online employment eligibility system. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally withdrew the "no match" safe harbor rule of the Bush administration.

The Bush-era "no match" rule gave employers three months to straighten out mismatched employee Social Security numbers or immigration documents that conflicted with what’s on record in D.C. After three months, the employers would have to fire those employees who couldn’t produce evidence of proper documentation (presumably because they’re using fake documents and numbers to cover up their illegal immigrant status).

Predictably for the Obama administration, the "no match" reversal was hailed by union supporters, which is somewhat ironic since unions just as predictably fear lower-cost labor as represented by undocumented workers, but the unions are engaging in a trade-off for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

"The no-match program was a flawed and ineffective enforcement tool that would have hurt U.S. citizens and other authorized workers," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

No doubt.

As for the E-Verify extension that has long been opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups (that rely on undocumented workers for cheap labor), even those who might otherwise cheer the extension saw a Trojan Horse in its midst.

Said a statement by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the extension is "further evidence of the Obama administration’s and the congressional leadership’s effort to raise a smokescreen while it dismantles all effective controls against illegal immigration."

No doubt.

Stay tuned to see what’s really going to transpire on the immigration front, provided the health care reform front ever recedes from center stage.