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New Workers’ Compensation Laws Reduce Delays and Improve Anti-Fraud Protection

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Archive: Nov 2016

New Workers’ Compensation Laws Reduce Delays and Improve Anti-Fraud Protection

Workers’ compensation exists to ensure that any employee who suffers injuries at work will not have to shoulder the costs of medical treatment or lose expected income from time spent out of work. When employees file for workers’ compensation, their insurance company (typically the employer’s insurance group that provides medical coverage to the employer’s employees) will refer injured employees to a specific group of doctors and facilities.

Predatory medical providers often sway individuals by using aggressive marketing tactics to catch employees’ attention and subject them to unnecessary or ineffective treatments, prescribe costly medications, and essentially defraud the health care system for personal gain.

In California, every employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance – even if it has only one employee. While workers’ compensation exists for the benefit of injured employees, some individuals use workers’ compensation in fraud schemes. California’s new workers’ compensation laws aim to reduce fraud and improve injured employees’ access to necessary treatments.

Deterring Fraud

Due to easily exploitable loopholes, some individuals used workers’ compensation to defraud insurance agencies. Such a provider would charge a patient with exorbitant treatment costs and simply send the bill along to the insurance companies. Since the employees are covered by workers’ compensation, they typically never see their bills. Individuals intent on committing fraud would essentially fabricate treatment records and bill for medical care that the employee never received, and in most cases, never needed.

Most of the people found guilty of these scams were medical doctors who had been banned from billing Medicare for malfeasance. These individuals would file a lien after an insurer refused to pay. Eventually, these liens would result in astronomical workers’ compensation insurance rates, and many businesses collapsed because of the costs of this kind of fraud.

This past August, the Department of Industrial Relations announced that more than $600 million in liens were filed between 2011 and 2015, by parties who had either been criminally indicted or convicted. The new laws require verification on every lien to ensure its legitimacy. Additionally, only the holder can file a lien, and any liens that are owned by anyone charged or indicted with criminal activity must be held until all criminal proceedings conclude.

AB 1244 requires the Division of Workers’ Compensation Administrative Director to restrict who may file these liens and prevent medical providers with criminal records from providing treatment to injured workers. These fraudulent charges are costly for the workers’ compensation system, and the new aim to reduce the costs of fraudulent activity, which in turn means better care for legitimate claims. Lackluster oversight has been cited as a leading cause of workers’ compensation fraud, enabling criminals to collect millions through illegitimate liens. The new laws entail a much stricter process for filing liens, such as a new requirement that every lien must have a declaration that affirms eligibility to be considered.

How These New Laws Help Injured Workers

The fraudulent activity that has plagued the workers’ compensation insurance landscape for years has bogged down resources that could have been used to handle legitimate claims. California lawmakers hope that the new lien restrictions prevent fraudulent medical providers from exploiting injured workers for personal gain.

Additionally, these new laws also prohibit any practitioners from handling any workers’ compensation cases if they have been indicted or convicted of fraud in the past, preventing criminals from re-entering the system and exploiting new patients.

Essentially, these new laws allow the workers’ compensation system to function as intended and help employers stay in compliance with state labor laws and workers’ compensation requirements, without incurring undue expense due to fraud. These new measures should alleviate pressure on the health care system, the judicial system, and greatly reduce the administrative costs associated with handling fraudulent liens.

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Changes to CA Workers’ Compensation Law: Assembly Bill 2883

Workers’ compensation insurance exists to protect employees who suffer job-related illnesses and injuries. After suffering such an incident, an employee files for workers’ compensation to cover the costs of medical care and wages lost during time the employee must spend out of work. The state of California dictates that every employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance, even if the company only has one employee.

Workers’ compensation insurance premiums are largely considered a necessity of doing business, but the passing and signing of Assembly Bill 2883 into law has some employers and members of the workers’ compensation insurance industry worried.

Assembly Bill 2883

The recent passage of Assembly Bill 2883 includes some significant changes to the way California Workers’ Compensation laws function. Beginning January 1, 2017, all workers’ compensation insurance policies must cover several types of employees and individuals who were previously exceptions. Before AB 2883 passed, workers’ compensation insurance laws did not require that most directors, company officers, and partners be covered.

The definition of an exempt employee has been narrowed drastically in an effort to provide workers’ compensation benefits to more employees. To qualify as exempt, partners, company officers, and company directors must refuse workers’ compensation coverage by filing a waiver with their company’s insurance provider.

Why Was This Law Created?

Under previous workers’ compensation laws, a company’s workers’ compensation insurance policy only needed to cover certain types of employees. Typically, company directors and officers were exempt from the workers’ compensation requirement, and some companies went so far as to list every employee as some type of director or officer to avoid paying for workers’ compensation.

The new law is expected to result in higher premiums for workers’ compensation insurance policies, which is not good news for business owners. Many think this change offers no direct benefit and simply compounds the cost of existing insurance policies. The new law requires any officers, partners, or directors to be covered unless those individuals own no less than 15% of the company’s stock. General managing partners of a limited liability company also would be exempt. However, to obtain this exemption, those individuals must execute the necessary waiver.

Critics of the new law say that the 15% threshold is going to hurt some middle-market businesses, most of which are privately owned by one or two founders. In many of these companies, long-term employees hold a percentage of the company’s stock. Previously, anyone owning a percentage of a company would be exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. Now, anyone who owns less than 15% must be covered. This means that employers must pay a much higher premium for these employees, because they typically earn higher salaries.

Originally, the law was supposed to apply only to any policies created or renewed after January 1, 2017. However, during the drafting process, the wording defined a much broader range of policies and will affect those in force as of January 1, 2017. This was an unintentional effect, and state legislators are working to address this discrepancy. Unless the law is altered to state clearly that it affects only new policies and renewals made on or after January 1, most of the corporations, LLCs, and partnerships that do not currently have workers’ compensation insurance will be defined as uninsured.

The effects of this law remain to be seen, but it appears as if state lawmakers are working toward restructuring it to reduce the burden it places on currently uninsured companies. Many worry that the new classification system for determining exemptions will cause undue strain on growing businesses and force them to restructure their companies or shoulder the additional premium costs.

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LOS TECNICISMOS LEGALES SON LEYES

Artículo 16-45

¡No Se Deje! ®

La gente frecuentemente usa la frase “tecnicismo legal” (en inglés “legal technicality”) para criticar el resultado de una disputa legal.  La implicación es que un juez o jurado irrazonablemente utiliza un pequeño detalle de la ley para justificar un resultado injusto.  Un hombre fue sentenciado a prisión por tener sexo con una chica dos meses antes de que ella cumpliera la edad de consentimiento.  El se quejó que la naturaleza de su acto mutuamente consentido no sería diferente en nada si éste hubiera ocurrido dos meses después y que su crimen fue un puro tecnicismo (“technicality”).  Las personas que pierden sus derechos a litigar disputas por no registrar a tiempo una demanda se quejan de manera similar.

 

Y, los detalles técnicos de las leyes y regulaciones pueden ser usados por los consumidores para obligar a otros a que respeten sus derechos.  El siguiente caso ilustra la importancia de conocer y utilizar  efectivamente los “tecnicismos”.  El “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act” –PTAF (en español Decreto para la Protección a Inquilinos en caso de Embargos) fue creado para proteger a las personas que están rentando una casa de los dueños que pierden la propiedad en un Embargo porque dejan de hacer los pagos al banco.  El banco y otros prestamistas notificaban inmediatamente a los inquilinos que tenían que salirse inmediatamente de la propiedad.  Frecuentemente estos inquilinos tenían contratos de arrendamiento que les daban derecho a rentar la propiedad por meses o años en el futuro.  Sin embargo, los bancos insistían que dado que ellos ahora eran dueños de la propiedad, tenían derecho legal a desalojarlos.

 

El PTAF obliga a los nuevos propietarios (usualmente bancos) que adquieren casas re-poseídas, a darle a los inquilinos una notificación de 90 días para desalojar la propiedad.  Y a los inquilinos que tienen contratos de arrendamiento se les debe permitir quedarse en la propiedad hasta el fin de su contrato A MENOS que el nuevo propietario ocupará la casa como su residencia principal.  Y aún así, el inquilino todavía tiene derecho a la notificación de los 90 días antes que le exijan salirse.

 

Un inquilino recibió un “5 day notice to vacate” (en español “notificación de 5 días para desocupar”) del banco que compró la casa rentada después que el dueño anterior la perdió en un embargo.  El inquilino no hizo caso al aviso de desocupar.  Más de 90 días después, el banco registró una acción judicial para desalojar al inquilino.  El inquilino le dijo al juez que nunca recibió la notificación de 90 días requerida por el PTAF.  El banco argumentó que había cumplido con la ley porque esperó más de 90 días para registrar la acción judicial.  La corte sentenció que la notificación de 5 días provista por el nuevo dueño no era legalmente suficiente.  La corte dijo que la ley da a los inquilinos el derecho de ocupar las instalaciones hasta el fin del contrato de arrendamiento y el derecho a recibir una notificación que les informe que tienen 90 días para desocupar la propiedad.  La notificación de 5 días, aún cuando sea seguida por una espera no comunicada de 90 días, es cuanto mucho engañosa. Este “tecnicismo” le proveyó un beneficio importante al inquilino.  Los tecnicismos son leyes, USENLOS.  Consulte prontamente a un abogado si usted está envuelto en una disputa legal.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

 

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LEGAL TECHNICALITIES ARE LAWS

Article 16-45

¡No Se Deje!

People often use the phrase “legal technicality” to criticize the result in a legal dispute.  The implication is that a judge or jury unreasonably used a minor detail in the law to justify an unjust result.  A man was sentenced to prison for having sex with a girl two months before she attained the age of consent.  He complained that the nature of their consensual act would not be any different if it had occurred two months later and that his crime was a mere “technicality.”  People that lose their right to litigate disputes for failing to file a lawsuit on time similarly complain.

 

And, technical details in laws or regulations can be used by consumers to force others to respect their rights.  A case illustrates the importance of knowing and using “technicalities” effectively.  The “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act” (PTAF) was created to protect people that are renting a home from owners that lose the property in Foreclosure because of failure to make the payments to the bank.  The banks and other lenders would immediately notify the tenants that they had to leave the property immediately.  Often these tenants had lease contracts giving them the right to rent the property for months or years in the future.  Nevertheless, the banks would insist that since they now owned the property, that they had the legal right to evict them.

 

The PTAF requires new owners (usually banks) that acquire repossessed homes, to give tenants a 90 day notice to vacate the property.  And tenants that have leases must be allowed to stay in the property until the end of their lease UNLESS the new owner of the property will occupy the residence as his/her primary residence.  And, even then, the tenant is still entitled to the 90 day notice before being required to leave.

 

A tenant received a “5 day notice to vacate” from a bank that bought the rental house after the prior owner lost the property in foreclosure.  The tenant ignored the notice to vacate.  More than 90 days later, the bank filed a court action to evict the tenant.  The tenant told the judge that he never received the 90 day notice required by the federal PTAF.  The bank argued that it had complied with the law because it waited more than 90 days to file the court action.  The court ruled that the 5 day notice provided by the new owner was not legally sufficient.  The court said that the law gives tenants the right to occupy the premises until the end of the lease and the right to receive a notice that informs them that they have 90 days to vacate the property.  The 5 day notice, even when followed by an unannounced 90 day delay, is at best misleading.  This “technicality” provided a significant benefit to the tenant.  Technicalities are laws, USE THEM.  Consult an attorney promptly if you are involved in a legal dispute.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

 

Jess J. Araujo, Esq

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EMPLEADOS DE CALIFORNIA TIENEN DERECHO LEGAL A AUSENCIAS DEL TRABAJO PAGADAS

Artículo 16-44

¡No Se Deje! ®

En 2002, California se convirtió en el primero estado en proveer a los trabajadores el derecho legal a permisos de ausencia del trabajo PAGADOS para cuidar a un hijo, padre, cónyuge o pareja doméstica registrada, que sufre de una “Enfermedad Médica Grave.”   Estos permisos también están disponibles para unirse emocionalmente con un hijo recién nacido o adoptado recientemente o con un hijo de crianza. Los beneficios deben ser tomados dentro de un año del nacimiento del hijo o de la recepción en el hogar del hijo adoptado o de crianza.

 

Los beneficios pueden tomarse hasta por 6 semanas en cualquier período de 12 meses y se pagan al 55% del salario semanal del trabajador hasta un máximo de $987 por semana.  Para determinar el pago de este beneficio se utilizan los tres meses con los salarios más altos dentro de los pasados 12 meses.  Existe un período de espera de 7 días antes que empiecen los beneficios.  Los empleados tienen mucha flexibilidad en decidir cómo y cuándo tomar el permiso pagado; pueden tomar unas cuantas horas o días de una vez o cualquier arreglo de horas y días según lo requiera su situación.

 

Todos los empleados (incluyendo a los inmigrantes indocumentados) que hacen pagos al sistema de Incapacidad del Estado (en inglés SDI) califican para los beneficios de ausencia Familiar Pagada desde el primer día de trabajo.  Los beneficios se pagan de las contribuciones que los empleados hacen al programa de Incapacidad Estatal.  A los trabajadores se les permite recibir pagos por Permiso de Ausencia Familiar durante una ausencia bajo el Decreto Federal de Permiso Médico o el Decreto de California de Derechos Familiares.  Esto es importante porque aunque la ley Federal y la de California no proveen beneficios monetarios, sí exigen que los patrones permitan el regreso del empleado al trabajo.  La ley sobre Permiso Familiar Pagado por sí sola no les da derecho a los trabajadores a regresar al trabajo.

 

“Enfermedades Médicas Graves” son enfermedades, lesiones, impedimentos o problemas físicos o mentales que requieren hospitalización, cuidados en el hogar o en centros para enfermos terminales, o tratamiento continuo con un doctor. El permiso por ausencia familiar pagado no está disponible para el trabajador si alguien más en la familia está disponible para cuidar al familiar enfermo.  Solamente un miembro de la familia a la vez puede recibir beneficios pagados por cualquier período de 8 horas diarias y no más de 3 personas pueden recibir beneficios pagados en un período por 24 horas por cuidar al mismo familiar. Además, los beneficios del permiso familiar pagado no están disponibles para los trabajadores que reciben beneficios del Seguro de Desempleo o de Incapacidad Estatal.  Los patrones pueden exigir que los empleados usen hasta dos semanas de sus vacaciones o de los permisos básicos por enfermedad antes de recibir beneficios del permiso familiar pagado.

 

El formulario que se usa para solicitar los beneficios del permiso familiar pagado se puede obtener en cualquier oficina del Employment Development Department (EDD).  El formulario completado debe registrarse en una oficina del EDD junto con un certificado médico.  El certificado médico debe ser completado por un doctor con licencia y debe incluir el diagnóstico, fecha en que comenzó la enfermedad, la duración probable, la cantidad de tiempo que necesita el empleado y, en el caso de un familiar, que la asistencia del empleado es necesaria.  Ambos padres pueden tomar un permiso familiar pagado para unirse emocionalmente con un hijo y no están obligados a tomar el permiso al mismo tiempo.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO 

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CALIFORNIA WORKERS HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO PAID TIME OFF

Article 16-44

¡No Se Deje!

In 2002, California became the first state to provide workers a legal right to PAID time off from work to care for a child, parent, spouse or registered domestic partner suffering from a “Serious Health Condition.”   These benefits are also available to bond with a newborn baby or recently adopted or foster child.  The benefits must be taken within one year of the birth of a baby or placement of an adopted or foster child in the home.

 

Benefits can be taken for up to 6 weeks in any 12 month period and are paid at 55% of the worker’s weekly salary to a maximum of $987 per week.  The highest earning three month period in the previous 12 months is used to determine the benefit amount.  There is a 7 day waiting period before benefits begin.  Employees are given great flexibility in deciding how and when to take the paid time off.  They can take a few hours or days or weeks at a time or any combination of schedules as their situation requires.

 

All employees (including undocumented immigrants) that pay into the State Disability system qualify to use Paid Family Leave from the first day of employment.  Benefits are paid from the contributions that employees make to the State Disability program.  Workers are allowed to receive Paid Family Leave payments while they are on leave under the Federal Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act.  This is important because the Federal and California laws do not provide monetary benefits but do require employers to allow the employee to return to work.  The Paid Family Leave law does not give workers a right to return to work.

 

Serious health conditions are illnesses, injuries or impairments or physical or mental conditions that require hospitalization or hospice or residential care or continuing treatment by a doctor. Paid family leave is not available to a worker if someone else in the family is available to care for the sick relative.  Only one family member can receive benefits for any 8 hour period and no more than 3 workers can receive benefits in a 24 hour period for caring for the same relative. And paid family leave benefits are not available to workers receiving Unemployment Insurance or State Disability benefits.  Employers can require employees to use up to two weeks of vacation and sick leave benefits before they receive paid family leave benefits.

 

The claim form used to apply for paid family leave benefits can be obtained at any Employment Development Department (EDD) office.  The completed form must be filed at an EDD office with a medical certificate.  The medical certificate must be completed by a licensed physician and must include the diagnosis, date the condition began, the probable duration, the amount of time needed by the employee and, in the case of a family member, that the employee’s assistance is necessary.  Both parents can take paid family leave to bond with a child and they are not required to take the leave at the same time.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.                                   

 

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$3.2 MILLONES OTORGA JURADO FEDERAL A FAMILIA POR ABUSO POLICIAL Y GUBERNAMENTAL

Artículo 16-43

¡No Se Deje! ®

Un jurado Federal de San José, California concedió  $3.2 millones de dólares a una familia porque oficiales de policía negligentemente sacaron de su casa a 3 niños.  Los padres e hijos fueron ilícitamente privados por aproximadamente 18 meses de su derecho a vivir juntos. Las pruebas establecieron que los oficiales de policía entraron al hogar familiar sin la orden de registro o  arresto que se requiere por ley.  Este caso ilustra la razón que la ley requiere, con pocas excepciones, que los oficiales de policía obtengan una orden judicialmente emitida antes de entrar o registrar el hogar de una persona u otra propiedad o llevarse a una persona bajo custodia.

 

Cuando el gobierno o los oficiales de policía creen que ciertas actividades o circunstancias indican que se ha cometido un crimen, la Constitución de EE.UU. les requiere presentar sus evidencias a un juez.  El juez  decide entonces si la evidencia establece “causa probable” para creer que se ha cometido un crimen y que el sospechoso probablemente lo cometió.   Ello protege a todas las personas en este país (sin importar su estatus migratorio) de registros y capturas irrazonables”.

 

Documentos de la corte revelaban que los oficiales de policía habían sido informados que la hija de 8 años de edad había mostrado acciones sexuales inapropiadas y que en el salón de clases había usado palabras inusuales para su edad.  También mencionó que se bañaba con su papá.  Oficiales de policía dijeron que se preocuparon y sospecharon más cuando el padre rehusó cooperar con ellos.  El procurador de la ciudad, Rick Doyle, admitió que los oficiales de policía debieron haber obtenido una orden judicial autorizada pero insistió que “la policía tiene derecho de rescatar niños si están en un peligro inmediato.”  Aunque esto es cierto, si la policía se equivoca en concluir que la situación califica para una excepción en obtener una orden, las víctimas pueden demandar y recibir indemnización. Esto es precisamente lo que sucedió en este caso.

 

Cuando la familia se trasladó a Napa 18 meses después, trabajadores sociales revisaron la base legal para quitarles los niños y los regresaron rápidamente con sus padres.  Esto confirmó el sentir de los padres que llevárselos fue inapropiado.  La familia registró una demanda contra la ciudad de San José, el Departamento de Policía de San José, el Condado y funcionarios escolares.  El Condado y los funcionarios escolares acordaron pagar una indemnización a la familia.  La ciudad de San José rehusó pagar y optó por que un jurado decidiera sobre el caso.

 

El jurado decidió unánimemente que los oficiales de policía no tenían suficiente evidencia para justificar entrar al hogar familiar  sin una orden o para llevarse a los niños de su casa o separarlos  de sus padres.  El jurado también decidió que los oficiales de policía violaron los derechos constitucionales de los niños y de sus padres a estar libres de registros y retenciones irrazonables.  También determinaron que los oficiales de policía violaron el derecho constitucional de la familia a estar libre del apoderamiento gubernamental de sus vidas, libertad o propiedades, sin el debido proceso de ley.  La familia hizo un argumento contundente y convincente al establecer que no hubo evidencia de abuso y que su hija nunca le dijo a nadie que había sido abusada sexualmente.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®  

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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$3.2 MILLION GIVEN TO FAMILY BY A FEDERAL JURY FOR POLICE AND GOVERNMENT ABUSE

Article 16-43

¡No Se Deje!

A Federal jury in San José, California awarded $3.2 million dollars to a family because police officers wrongfully removed their 3 children from their home.  The parents and the children were unlawfully deprived of their right to live together for approximately 18 months. The evidence established that police officers entered the family’s home without a legally required search or arrest warrant.  This case illustrates the reason that the law requires, with few exceptions, police officers to obtain a judicially ordered warrant before entering or searching a person’s home or other property or taking a person into custody.

 

When government or police officials believe that certain activities or circumstances indicate that a crime has been committed, the U. S. Constitution requires them to present their evidence to a judge.  The judge then decides if the evidence establishes “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been committed and that the suspect probably did it.   This protects every person in this country, regardless of immigration status, from “unreasonable searches and seizures”.

 

Court records revealed that police officers had been informed that the 8 year old daughter had exhibited improper sexual actions and used unusual words for her age in her classroom.  She also mentioned that she bathed with her father.  Police officers said that they became further concerned and suspicious when her father refused to cooperate with them.  The city attorney, Rick Doyle, admitted that the police officers should have obtained a judicially authorized warrant but insisted that “police have a right to retrieve children if they are in immediate danger.”  While this is true, if the police are wrong in concluding that the situation qualifies for an exception to getting a warrant, the victims can sue and receive compensation. That is precisely what happened here.

 

When the family moved to Napa 18 months later, social workers reviewed the basis for the removal of the children and quickly returned them to the parents.  This confirmed the parents’ belief that the removal was improper.  The family filed a lawsuit against the city of San José, the San José Police Department, the County and school officials.  The County and school officials agreed to a settlement payment to the family.  The city of San José refused to pay and elected to have the case decided by a jury.

 

The jury unanimously decided that the police officers did not have enough evidence to justify entering the family home without a warrant or to take the children from their home and parents.  The jury also decided that the police officers violated the parents’ and children’s’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  They also determined that the police officers violated the family’s constitutional right to be free from governmental taking of their life, liberty or property without due process of law.  The family made a powerful and persuasive argument when they established that their daughter never told anyone that she had been sexually abused and that there was no evidence of abuse.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.

 

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NO INVESTIGAR ESTATUS MIGRATORIO DICE GOBIERNO FEDERAL A DISTRITOS ESCOLARES

Artículo 16-42

¡No Se Deje! ®

Aunque claramente es contra la ley Federal  que los funcionarios y empleados escolares indaguen sobre el estatus migratorio de sus estudiantes o sus padres, cientos de distritos escolares todavía lo han estado haciendo.  En New York, se encontró a 139 distritos escolares (20%) que ilegalmente requerían que los estudiantes entregaran documentos migratorios como condición para matricularse en la escuela.  Y varios estados y gobiernos locales consideraron aprobar leyes similares.

 

Organizaciones pro libertades civiles y pro Reforma Migratoria registraron quejas y enfáticamente urgieron a la Administración Obama tomar acción inmediata para aplicar la ley Federal.  Como resultado, altos funcionarios Federales emitieron un memorándum muy enérgico para los distritos escolares de la nación recordándoles que es contra la ley que las autoridades educativas requieran información sobre el estatus migratorio de los estudiantes.  La nota dice “nos hemos enterado de las prácticas para matricular estudiantes que podrían…desanimar la participación, o resultar en la exclusión de estudiantes basados en…el estatus migratorio real o supuesto de ellos o de sus padres.  ESTAS PRACTICAS INFRINGEN LA LEY FEDERAL.”

 

El memorándum fue firmado por Thomas Perez, Ex Procurador General Auxiliar de la División de Derechos Civiles del Departamento de Justicia, y Russlynn Ali, Secretaria Auxiliar para los Derechos Civiles del Departamento de Educación.  El memorándum legal explicaba la ley según lo declarado por la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos en 1982 en el caso Plyer vs. Doe.  En dicho caso la Corte dijo que una ley de Texas que negaba la educación pública gratis a “extranjeros ilegales” violaba la Cláusula sobre Protección Equitativa de la Catorceava Enmienda de la Constitución de EE.UU.  Dicha cláusula prohíbe la discriminación basada en el estatus migratorio porque tal discriminación no promueve un interés estatal substancial.

La Corte dijo “La ley de Texas estaba dirigida contra menores e imponía su peso discriminatorio con base en una característica legal sobre la cual los menores tienen poco control”. La corte se refería al hecho que siendo niños fueron traídos ilegalmente al país por sus padres. Se ha determinado que este caso solo aplica a estudiantes de escuelas primarias y secundarias (high school).  La Corte dijo “negarle a los menores una educación apropiada probablemente contribuiría a la creación y perpetuación de una subclase de analfabetos dentro de nuestras fronteras, agregándose a los problemas y costos del desempleo, asistencia pública, y el crimen.”

 

De acuerdo con el abogado John W. Carrera quien representó a National Coalition of Advocates for Students (Coalición Nacional de Defensores de los Estudiantes), los empleados escolares tienen prohibido colaborar con los Funcionarios de Inmigración en cualquier forma que pueda arriesgar los derechos de los estudiantes inmigrantes bajo el caso Plyer.  Xochitl Hinojosa del Departamento de Justicia de EE.UU. dijo que esta es la primera vez que su departamento ha proveído guiamiento a distritos escolares sobre los requerimientos del caso Plyer de 1982.  Es claro que la Administración Obama ha decidido frenar cualquier intento de las escuelas de violar los derechos de todos los estudiantes a estar libres de interrogatorios sobre el estatus migratorio.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TELLS SCHOOL DISTRICTS NOT TO CHECK IMMIGRATION STATUS

Article 16-42

¡No Se Deje!

Although it is clearly against Federal law for school officials and employees to inquire into the immigration status of its students or their parents, hundreds of school districts have been doing so.  In New York alone, 139 school districts (20%) were found to unlawfully require students to produce immigration documents as a condition of enrolling in school.  And several states and local governments are considering passing similar laws.

 

Immigration Reform and civil liberties organizations filed complaints and strongly urged the Obama Administration to take immediate action to enforce Federal law.  As a result, top Federal officials issued a strongly worded memorandum to the nation’s school districts reminding them that it is against the law for education authorities to request immigration status information from students.  The letter states “we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may…discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion of students based on their or their parents’…actual or perceived immigration status.  THESE PRACTICES CONTRAVENE FEDERAL LAW.”

 

The memorandum was signed by Thomas Perez, Former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights of the Education Department.  The legal memorandum explained the law as stated by the United States Supreme Court in 1982 in the case of Plyer vs. Doe.  In that case the Court said that a Texas law denying a free public education to “illegal aliens” violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.  That clause prohibits discrimination on the basis of immigration status because such discrimination does not further a substantial state interest.

 

The Court said “the Texas law was directed against children and imposed its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control”. The court was referring to the fact that they were brought illegally into the country as children by their parents. This case has been determined to only apply to elementary and high school students.  The Court said “denying children a proper education would likely contribute to the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”

 

According to attorney John W. Carrera representing the National Coalition of Advocates for Students, school employees are prohibited from cooperating with Immigration Officials in any way that may jeopardize immigrant students’ rights under the Plyer case.  Xochitl Hinojosa of the U. S. Justice department said that this is the first time that her department has provided guidance to school districts about the 1982 Plyer case requirements.  It is clear that the Obama Administration has decided to stop any attempts by schools to violate the rights of all students to be free from immigration status inquiries.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.

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