Immigrants Who Report Work Injuries Face Challenges Beyond Compensation

With approximately 11 million immigrants in the U.S., President Donald Trump is spreading panic among the immigrant population with threats of deportation for those living or working in the U.S. illegally. Recently, Trump’s administration announced their enforcement priority on illegal immigrants charged with or convicted of any offense.

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Such rhetoric has disrupted industries that rely on immigrant labor, where workers now fear mass roundups and hostile work environments. However, this is not the first time immigrant workers have feared for their jobs. In fact, on-the-job injuries and requests for worker’s compensation have caused deportation issues for several years.

Harsh Consequences

In 2004, a man named Leopold Zumaya fell into a hole while pruning an apple orchard in Pennsylvania. Zumaya broke his leg, left with medical bills but unable to work for some time. When he attempted to collect compensation, he was unable to do so after his employer disclosed his immigration status to the insurance agency.

Zumaya’s inability to collect compensation was, however, just a mild consequence. In addition to being unable to collect workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries, illegal immigrants have been arrested and even deported following a work injury.

In 2005, a man named Francisco Berumen Lizalde fell off of a work scaffolding while painting. When he reported his injuries, he wound up in deportation proceedings and was not able to see a doctor immediately. Lizalde said his employer tipped off immigration officials and the insurance company in an attempt to escape compensation responsibilities.

On-the-job injuries can happen to just about anyone, regardless of where they work, or what type of work they do: work place injuries in the entertainment industry, for instance, are as common as injuries suffered by hand laborers in a field. Injuries don’t discriminate, but our politics on immigration does. Without safeguards in place to hold employers accountable, it seems likely that Trump’s new policy will only fan the flames of this unfortunate fire.

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