When Undocumented Workers Are Injured

by Conor Friedersdorf

The Washington Examiner updates us on the subject:

An illegal immigrant injured while working can receive workers' compensation, the District's highest court has ruled.

Palemon Gonzales was working at a D.C. bar as a busboy on June 30, 2005, when a customer threw a bottle that hit Gonzales in the right eye, blinding him. Gonzales, an illegal immigrant, had to have his dislocated lens reattached through surgery, and he wasn't able to return to work -- at a different bar -- until Jan. 25, 2006. By then, Gonzales was already in the process of trying to collect workers' compensation benefits. Asylum Company, which owned the bar where Gonzales was injured, fought the claim, in part, on the grounds that it contends an illegal immigrant can't receive workers' compensation.

Critics of illegal immigration are upset:

Now we can add workers’ compensation to the growing list of incentives for foreign nationals to come here illegally, along with free medical treatment, free public education for their children and in-state college tuition in many states.

That's a flawed way of assessing this situation. If illegal immigrants didn't have to be compensated when injured on the job, employers would have a bigger incentive to hire them. Whereas rules that extend to illegal immigrants the same rights as documented workers make them marginally more expensive and less likely to be hired.

You'd think, listening to some critics of illegal immigration, that undocumented workers have things better than American citizens. What these people don't realize is that if a law were passed mandating that illegal immigrants be paid a minimum wage of $25 an hour with gold plated health care benefits, and it was strictly enforced, far fewer undocumented workers would be employed in the United States.