Cross Posted from Pursuing Holiness:
“HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT:
Injured illegal workers often left with nothing. He came for the American Dream and found an American nightmare”
The Charlotte Observer has the sad, sad tale of Francisco Ruiz.
Thousands of immigrant workers are hurt and killed each year as they take on some of America’s most dangerous jobs. U.S. workers’ compensation laws require most companies to pay injury benefits, even if the employees are working illegally. But many are denied those benefits. Those workers, unaware of their rights and unable to withstand a drawn-out legal battle, go home to their families to heal.
Francisco Ruiz is a Tampico native who decided to stay in America and fight.
He was partially paralyzed and brain damaged when he fell 30 feet at a construction site near Lake Wylie. His employer, Belk Masonry Co., and its insurer refused to pay injury benefits because, they said, Ruiz was an “illegal alien.”
But Ruiz wouldn’t go home disabled to a wife and three children, with no money and no way to earn it.
What followed was a six-year struggle between the Mexican laborer and his employer’s well-financed insurance company.
I love how the Observer put scare quotes around the phrase, illegal alien, as if that made it less true. Here are the relevant facts in this guy’s tale of woe.
-He’s from Tampico Mexico where he dropped out of school in the 8th grade.
-He got work as a taxi driver, groundskeeper at a cemetary, and selling tacos.
-He got married at 19.
-When he was 36, the economy in his area tanked and he needed more money to support his family.
-He illegally crossed the border twice, and the second time he made it to Charlotte, N.C. where he had friends living illegally, and where there is “one of the nation’s fastest growing populations of illegal immigrants.”
-He bought a Social Security card for $10, bringing the number of his known crimes to at least three. If the card he bought had a real person’s information on it, make that four, for identity theft.
-He got a job as a laborer for $300 a week, 8am - 5pm. That’s $7.50 an hour, and I’m sure he got no benefits.
-A “crane hoisting Ruiz along with a load of bricks collapsed. He plunged at least 30 feet onto a concrete floor and was pelted with falling bricks.” [Hello? OSHA?]
-The insurance company paid his initial medical bills, but when they found out he was illegal they cut him off.
-Ruiz is now permanently disabled.
-While this made its way through the court system, the state made the insurance company pay him $200 a week.
-In spite of his permanent disability, after three years Ruiz managed to go home for a visit and then sneak across the border yet again, this time with some extra help.
-Finally, Ruiz won in the court system and the insurance company had to pay him $438,000.
-He’s back where he started in Tampico. But his son in law is living illegally in Charlotte, N.C. and working at a fast food restaurant.
Now, this is legitimately a sad story. I don’t wish ill for anyone. In spite of the fact that he deliberately and repeatedly broke the law, I’m not going to say that Ruiz deserved what he got. But a couple of notes about this… The Observer story reads like something written by Ruiz’ attorney. It is in no way objective. It’s loaded with phrases that illlustrate how eeeevil the insurance company is. But the insurance company has an obligation to its stockholders to not pay out unless they have to. And the concept that Ruiz is partly responsible for his problems is completely absent. Had he come here legally, the insurance company would have had to pay promptly, there would have been no question about what was right. Finally, while the insurance company is vilified, Ruiz’ employer, Belk Masonry, gets a free pass for hiring an illegal alien and violating OSHA regulations.
This is a disgrace, and somehow I doubt that Belk Masonry is chastened by the whole experience and now only hires legal workers. We need interior enforcement of our immigration laws, and we need to crack down hard on the employers. At the end of the day, severe employer sanctions will do more to stop illegal immigration than any other single action. If there are no jobs here, they won’t come. And if they don’t come, or if they come legally, wages will rise.
**This was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email the coalition and let me know at what level you would like to participate.