Immigration Changes & How They Affect the Workers’ Compensation System

Illegal alien workers compensation law San Diego Mexico.

We’ve all heard about the wall he wants to build on the US-Mexico border, but in addition, President Trump vowed to make drastic changes to the US immigration system. While many of his proposed changes have not yet taken shape or have been stymied by Congress, there appears to be a marked difference in the illegal immigrants being deported under Donald Trump. Immigrants who pose no threats to national security or the community nor those charged or convicted of serious crimes are now being targeted for deportation, a shift from the prior policies under Barack Obama.

Workers Compensation for Undocumented Immigrants in San Diego

Despite the shift in recent federal immigration policy, if you’re working in California without proper documentation and get hurt on the job, there’s good news: California law provides that an ‘employee’ is defined as any person in the service of an employer, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed, and includes aliens. California workers’ compensation cases have interpreted the term ‘alien’ to mean that benefits for individuals hurt at work are extended to undocumented, illegal aliens. This applies whether an undocumented injured worker applied for a job in violation of federal law by using false documents including improperly obtained social security numbers and/or green card.

Immigration is always going to be an important topic in San Diego next to the US-Mexico border. How President Trump decides to enforce immigration laws will have an impact on injured workers in Southern California. Those individuals in the US working without documentation know they can be deported if caught. But, are they now a target to be sent out of the country?

Effect of Possible New Immigration Policy on Workers' Compensation

As it stands, there have been no changes to this state’s labor code regarding injured workers and their legal status. With that said, there have been states that are using an alien’s immigration status to deny workers’ compensation benefits.

Like California, Florida provides workers’ compensation benefits to undocumented aliens who are hurt on the job. Unlike California, however, Florida law provides that it is a felony to apply for or obtain work with false documents. Injured workers in Florida can be arrested and deported instead of compensated through that state’s workers’ compensation program for using a false social security number or someone else’s green card.

This type of policy allows insurance companies to use investigative agencies to look into a claimant’s legal status in this country and deny benefits to that person regardless of whether they have a legitimate injury at work. Further, this practice actually incentivizes companies to hire illegal aliens knowing they are unlikely to file claims thus keeping their insurance premiums down. Florida’s law is being exploited by insurance companies and employers and is against public policy.

California is Still a Safe Place for Undocumented Workers

Fortunately, California recognizes that undocumented workers are a necessary part of our economy. People are going to continue to cross our borders seeking good paying jobs to better themselves and their families. In many cases, these people even take the most undesirable jobs. It would be unreasonable to allow these people to work in our communities, contribute to the economy and then ship them out of the country when and if they get hurt denying them indemnity and medical treatment.

While federal immigration strategy appears to be impacting state policies and ultimately tilting towards removing illegal aliens regardless of their criminal or national security status, it is this office’s belief that California will continue to fight against the new administration’s plan to deport good, hard-working, law-abiding individuals regardless of their legal status.

Brody & Associates Helps with Workers' Compensation Claims for Undocumented Immigrants

The Law Office of Gerald D. Brody & Associates is a longstanding member of the California Applicants Attorney Association, an organization that continues to fight on behalf of injured workers in California – whether documented or not. We have and will continue to represent undocumented immigrants who get hurt at work in order to obtain the benefits they are entitled to help them get back to work and contributing to our economy.