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Undocumented Immigrants, Workers’ Compensation, and California’s Economy

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President Trump has taken a firm stance against illegal immigration, and some Californians worry what this will mean for the state’s economy and large population of undocumented immigrants. President Trump has already vowed to hire more than 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, complete a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and restrict travel from certain countries.

The United States was founded and built by immigrants, and many California lawmakers have committed to opposing President Trump’s apparent hard-line stance against undocumented immigrants. California employers are notorious for ignoring immigration status during the hiring process, and Trump has promised to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants instead of documented immigrants and American citizens.

Workers’ Compensation for Undocumented Immigrants

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 11 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it is illegal to offer employment to an undocumented immigrant, but many employers are able to cut operating costs by paying undocumented immigrants much lower wages than the industry standard. Many undocumented immigrants can only find work in low-paying and inherently risky jobs, such as farm labor and construction. When undocumented workers suffer injuries on the job, they are far less likely than other employees to report the injury due to fear of being fired.

If an employee does not have valid U.S. documentation or identification, there cannot be any official employment contract between the employee and employer. This means that if they are injured on the job, they will not be able to receive benefits under the law. Additionally, an employer who knowingly employs an undocumented immigrant may not be able to take advantage of certain protections afforded to most other employers.

Undocumented Immigration in California

California is perhaps the state most heavily affected by illegal immigration. California has a very large Latino community, and nearly 80% of the undocumented immigrants in the United States are Latino. Twenty-two percent of all Latino undocumented immigrants reside in California.

In 2014 alone, nearly 60% of all workplace injury victims and almost 40% of workplace death victims were Latino. That being said, California Latinos are less likely to file claims for workers’ compensation benefits compared with employees of another ethnicity. This may be due to the fact that many workers fear retaliation (such as being fired) for being injured on the job. Many suffer through their injuries, resulting in permanent damage or other serious conditions. Eventually, this takes a toll on the local economy when undocumented injured workers are forced to drop their employment because they are too injured to continue working and cannot receive treatment.

A great deal of the Californian economy depends on undocumented immigrants. Some may criticize this as an unethical dependency on illegal labor, but many Californians believe that helping undocumented immigrants find and keep employment is the right thing to do for the local economy. The president’s tough stance against illegal immigration may put the future of California’s economy at stake, especially since deportation raids and other activities are expected to ramp up in the coming months.

If you or a loved one has questions about deportation or American immigration policy, reach out to an experienced attorney. While a work injury attorney may be the best option for workers’ compensation claim issues, an immigration attorney may have more insight concerning an undocumented immigrant’s ability to secure workers’ compensation benefits.