Undocumented immigrants hold roughly 8 million jobs in the United States — and those jobs are often highly-dangerous and poorly-paid. Industrial plant work, roofing jobs and landscaping are among the many common professions that are open to immigrants who lack the proper paperwork.
As a result, undocumented immigrants in almost all 50 states, including Georgia, have the right to file for workers’ compensation when they’re injured on job — but is it possible to file a claim without getting deported?
For many, that’s a question that can’t be answered until after they’re already hurt. Many undocumented immigrants end up working under a fake or stolen Social Security number or other identification. Under Georgia’s laws (unlike that of some other states, such as Florida) filing for workers’ compensation benefits under a false identity is not a crime — nor is it a crime for an attorney to represent an undocumented immigrant in a workers’ compensation case.
However, that won’t necessarily stop an immigrant who is working without proper documentation from ending up in a complicated situation if he or she is hurt on the job:
- Employers (who may have been quietly aware that the employee was not legally working in the United States all along) may decide to exploit the situation in order to get out of paying the worker by tipping off Immigration authorities about the worker’s illegal status.
- If the employer stays quiet (either out of general decency or for fear of Immigration finding out that he or she knew all along about the employee’s status), the employer’s insurance company may very well investigate on his or her own and contact immigration.
- The employee may eventually lose benefits because he or she can’t return to the previous workplace and is unable to find an employer who isn’t now carefully checking the identification of all new hires. Refusing a job because it’s illegal to take it can be considered willful refusal of suitable employment under case law in Georgia.
In some cases, workers who have been injured have ended up charged with fraud because they used a false identity — which then can lead to deportation.
Because of the complexities and dangers involved in filing a workers’ compensation claim if you’re an immigrant who has been injured in an industrial accident, talk to an attorney before you file.
Source: www.npr.org, “They Got Hurt At Work — Then They Got Deported,” Howard Berkes, Aug. 16, 2017