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South Carolina Illegal Employee Workers’ Comp Bill Faces Delays, Critics

Posted on Feb 27, 2009
Forbes.com reports on a new bill that would restrict the workers' compensation rights of those who are not legal citizens employed in the United States. The proposed bill would make the laws surrounding illegal immigrant rights in South Carolina even tougher than they already historically have been.

In the bill, which was debated by a judiciary subcommittee this week, would allow foreign workers to have medical costs covered but would not protect them or their families if they were injured or killed on the job.

"We can be nannies. We can be translators. ... We build houses. We build hospitals," said Diana Salazar, president of the Latino Association of Charleston. "But we cannot get benefits if we get hurt on the job because we don't have a piece of paper? ... I think it's unfair."

The bill comes just months after a bill that ensured that employers checked their workers' citizenships before hiring. Some opponents of the bill worry that the law would encourage companies to hire illegal citizens in order to save themselves from making settlements with those hurt or killed on the job - with foreign workers, companies could stop worry so much about a safe work environment or about being sued for being negligent. In addition, the bill could hurt the state's health care systems - with doctor's offices and hospitals left with large, unpaid bills created by unsafe working conditions paired with a lack of benefits for employees.

Insurance companies, on the other hand, are supporting the bill. They stand to pay less money out on claims.

Hispanic workers in South Carolina are already more likely to be killed or injured on the job, and South Carolina has the highest death rate for Hispanic workers in the country. Some of these problems stem from the types of jobs that illegal workers are hired for, while other problems stem from language barriers and English literacy issues.

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