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Undocumented workers get hurt on Florida construction sites

There are many undocumented immigrants looking for work in south Florida's construction trade. Many are long-term residents who have worked for years under the radar with falsified or nonexistent immigration documents. However, the workers can wind up in unfortunate circumstances if they get hurt on the job.

Work-related injuries are subject to the regulations of the Florida workers' compensation system. Under the current laws of the state, all workers, even those who are without immigration documents, are entitled to receive injury benefits. However, by filing for benefits, the undocumented workers risk exposure, being arrested, prosecuted and ultimately deported back to their countries of origin.

On any given day in America, approximately 8 million undocumented immigrants work using falsified documents, or without any papers whatsoever. These undocumented workers also have higher rates of on the job injuries and deaths than their counterparts with legal citizenship status.

However, 14 years ago, the Florida legislature made it illegal to file for workers' comp using fake identification documents. That effectively halted companies from making payments on undocumented workers' medical bills or as cash benefits. In fact, the companies are usually the ones to get them deported by alerting immigration authorities to their illegal status.

While the worker without proper documentation ultimately bears the greatest burden in these situations, contractors and construction company owners may wish to avoid any illegal immigration scandal from tainting their brand or making them appear exploitative.

Especially in the current political climate, a dispute over a company's use of undocumented laborers is something to be avoided. Those embroiled in such controversies already may wish to seek legal guidance regarding how to sidestep any problems.

Source: NPR.org, "They Got Hurt At Work — Then They Got Deported," Michael Grabell, Aug. 16, 2017

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