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Florida Lawmakers to Review Law Targeting Injured Undocumented Workers

| August 27, 2017

Juvenal Dominguez Quino sprained his knee when a trench collapsed at his construction job and was arrested for providing a false Social Security number to receive workers' compensation benefits. (Scott McIntyre for ProPublica)

Juvenal Dominguez Quino sprained his knee when a trench collapsed at his construction job and was arrested for providing a false Social Security number to receive workers’ compensation benefits. (Scott McIntyre for ProPublica)

The second-highest ranking member of the Florida Senate pledged a legislative review of a state law that has allowed injured undocumented workers to be arrested and potentially deported rather than paid workers’ compensation benefits.


“Legitimate injuries shouldn’t be denied just because the person was an undocumented immigrant,” said Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, the president pro tempore of the state Senate and chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee.

“One needs to balance the going after fraudulent claims,” she said, “with not overcompensating and then denying claims to those individuals who have actually been injured.”

Flores spoke in response to a recent NPR and ProPublica investigation and a subsequent statement by the nation’s largest insurance fraud group, which called on Florida lawmakers to change the law. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud said employers and insurance companies are applying the law in ways that place “the credibility of combating real fraud at risk.”

“Legislators in the Sunshine State need to correct this loophole so workers hurt on the job get the care they need,” said Dennis Jay, executive director of the coalition, which is made up of insurance companies, government agencies, consumer organizations and insurance fraud investigators.

“I just see the credibility of the anti-fraud effort being hurt by such practices,” Jay said in an interview.

NPR and ProPublica found that nearly 800 undocumented workers in Florida have been charged with workers’ comp fraud for using illicit Social Security numbers to either get their jobs, file for workers’ compensation benefits or both. More than 560 didn’t actually file workers’ comp claims but still were charged with fraud. Another 130 suffered legitimate workplace injuries but were denied benefits and prosecuted. Some were detained by federal immigration authorities and deported.

Like most states, Florida provides workers’ comp benefits to undocumented workers despite their legal status. The state’s workers’ comp law was amended in 2003 to make the use of false identification in obtaining jobs and workers’ comp benefits a felony.

“I don’t see how they can legally justify that,” Jay said. “It also paints insurers as uncaring, greedy corporations that allow human suffering to make a buck.”

Some of the insurance companies who have used the Florida law to deny claims are members of Jay’s coalition, as is the state agency that administers the law.

Jon Moore, spokesman for the Florida Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, said his agency is “obligated to enforce the law as it relates to the workers’ compensation system in Florida.” But he said, “another look into the questions that are being posed may be warranted. What is the balance between the harm and the benefits that are being produced?”

Florida Sen. Anitere Flores.

Florida Sen. Anitere Flores.

Flores said she is especially concerned about companies who may hire undocumented workers knowing that the threat of prosecution and deportation may keep them from pursuing workers’ comp claims if they are injured at work.

‘That’s borderline unconscionable,” Flores said, adding that she’ll seek the legislature’s review of this use of Florida law as part of a planned broader look at the state’s workers’ compensation law.

John Porreca, the owner of SouthEast Personnel Leasing and subsidiaries Lion Insurance and Packard Claims, did not respond to a request for comment. Porreca’s companies were featured in NPR and ProPublica’s story and turned in far more injured workers than any others.

Steve Cassell, the president of Command Investigations, which investigates the backgrounds of undocumented workers for insurers and features a gallery of injured workers on its website, also did not respond.

Brian Carter, a Florida workers’ comp attorney, welcomed the call for changes to the Florida law. He says undocumented workers use illicit Social Security numbers because they can’t get jobs without them and employers in Florida need those workers.

“It is illogical to legislatively provide workers’ compensation benefits to undocumented workers,” Carter said, “and then legislatively make it criminal to use a false Social Security number for identification.” 

Jay added that his group is already engaging Florida lawmakers and will offer assistance in drafting alternative legislation.

–Michael Grabell, ProPublica

Legisladores de Florida revisarán la ley que persigue a trabajadores lesionados indocumentados

La senadora con el segundo rango más alto de Florida prometió una revisión legislativa de una ley estatal que ha permitido que los trabajadores indocumentados lesionados sean detenidos y potencialmente deportados en vez de recibir pagos de compensación laboral.

“No se deberían de negar las lesiones legítimas solo porque la persona sea un inmigrante indocumentado,” dijo la Senadora Anitere Flores, presidenta pro tempore del Senado estatal y jefa del Comité de Banca y Seguros.

“Se necesita hacer un equilibrio entre perseguir las demandas fraudulentas y no sobre-compensar y negar las demandas a individuos que se han lesionado de verdad,” dijo.

Flores habló en respuesta a una reciente investigación de NPR y ProPublica y a una subsecuente declaración por el grupo contra el fraude de seguros más grande de la nación, que pidió a los legisladores de Florida cambiar la ley. La Coalición Contra Fraude de Seguros dijo que empleadores y aseguradoras están implementando la ley con métodos que “ponen en riesgo la credibilidad de combatir el fraude real.”

“Los legisladores en el ‘Estado del Sol’ tienen que corregir este vacío legal para que los trabajadores que sufren lesiones en el trabajo reciban la atención que necesitan,” dijo Dennis Jay, director ejecutivo de la coalición, que está compuesta por aseguradoras, agencias de gobierno, organizaciones de consumidores e investigadores contra el fraude de seguros.

“Veo que la credibilidad de la lucha contra el fraude está siendo dañada por estas prácticas,” dijo Jay en una entrevista.

NPR y ProPublica determinaron que casi 800 trabajadores indocumentados en Florida han sido acusados de fraude en el reclamo de compensación laboral por utilizar números de seguridad social ilícitos o bien para conseguir sus empleos, para hacer solicitudes para beneficios de compensación laboral, o para las dos cosas. Más de 560 de hecho no presentaron demandas por compensación laboral, pero todavía fueron acusados de fraude. Otros 130 sufrieron lesiones legítimas en el lugar de trabajo pero se les negó la compensación y fueron perseguidos penalmente. Algunos fueron detenidos por autoridades federales de inmigración y deportados.

Como la mayoría de estados, Florida otorga beneficios de compensación laboral a trabajadores indocumentados a pesar de su estatus legal. La ley de compensación laboral estatal fue enmendada en 2003 para convertir en crimen el uso de identificación falsa para conseguir empleos y beneficios de compensación laboral.

“No veo cómo pueden justificar esto legalmente,” dijo Jay. “También retrata a las aseguradoras como corporaciones indiferentes y avariciosas que permiten el sufrimiento humano para ganar plata.”

Algunas de las compañías de seguros que han utilizado la ley de Florida para negar demandas son miembros de la coalición de Jay, como también lo es la agencia estatal que administra la ley.

Jon Moore, un portavoz para la División de Servicios Investigativos y Forenses de Florida, dijo que su agencia “tiene la obligación de hacer cumplir la ley acorde al sistema de compensación laboral en Florida.” Pero dijo que “puede ser que otra mirada a las cuestiones que se están planteando esté justificada. ¿Cuál es el balance entre el daño y los beneficios que se están produciendo?”

Flores dijo que está especialmente preocupada por empresas que puedan contratar a trabajadores indocumentados sabiendo que la amenaza de procedimientos penales y deportación puede inhibirles de llevar adelante reclamos por compensación laboral si sufren lesiones en el trabajo.

“Esto raya en lo inadmisible,” dijo Flores, añadiendo que va a solicitar la revisión por la legislatura de este uso de la ley de Florida como parte de una evaluación planificada más amplia de la ley estatal de compensación laboral.

John Porreca, el dueño de SouthEast Personnel Leasing y las filiales Lion Insurance y Packard Claims, no respondió a una petición de comentario. Las empresas de Porreca fueron examinadas en el reportaje de NPR y ProPublica y delataron a muchos más trabajadores que cualquier otra compañía.

Steve Cassell, presidente de Command Investigations, que investiga para las aseguradoras los historiales de trabajadores indocumentados y presenta una galería de trabajadores lesionados en su sitio de Internet, tampoco respondió.

Brian Carter, un abogado de compensación laboral en Florida, dijo que la iniciativa para cambiar la ley de Florida era bienvenida. Dice que los trabajadores indocumentados usan números de seguridad social ilícitos porque no consiguen trabajos sin ellos, y que los empleadores en Florida necesitan a esos trabajadores.

“Es ilógico que legislativamente se otorguen beneficios de compensación laboral a los trabajadores indocumentados y que después los legisladores conviertan en crimen el uso de un número de seguridad social falso como identificación,” dijo Carter.

Jay añadió que su grupo ya está contactando con los legisladores de Florida y ofrecerá ayuda en la redacción de una legislación alternativa.

–Michael Grabell, Pro-Publica; Traducción al español por Carmen Méndez.

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12 Responses for “Florida Lawmakers to Review Law Targeting Injured Undocumented Workers”

  1. Sw says:

    #1 learn to read,speak, understand American English. Legitimate injuries ok. Still become a citizen. Next undocumented, I am with Trump. Go thru the channels like everyone else,The Law, or bye bye.

  2. Bc. says:

    If illegal they should not get any kind of benefits period

  3. Shark says:

    Just like drumpf’s mail order bride !!!!!

  4. Lou says:

    Trumpites,stop hiring and injuring undocumented workers. Problem eliminated.

  5. JasonB says:

    We need to grant all these workers amnesty, just like Reagan did.

  6. woody says:

    Why do we sugar coat what things are?Undocumented workers?What they really are – illegal aliens.Employer’s should be held accountable for hiring works without having a work visa.Benefits I think not.I’ll remember that name come election time.

  7. Born and Raised Here says:

    These people should be compensated for there injuries, and should be given amesty, Grant them citizenship. I see no other Americans willing to to this kind of work.

  8. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    As a Conservative I have to go back to the foundations of my Conservative philosophy on this. The LAW was broken, yes broken! The finger of blame and responsibility lays at the feet of the CONTRACTOR. The contractor is the one who hires the workers, pays them in cash on a daily basis and in all accounts underplays them, does not provide insurance for them or any other benefit afforded everyone else.

    As a Conservative I have to say I am against ” illegal immigration” , I’m against people just overrunning our boarders like a invading army except with immigrants they don’t usually (not all) come over with guns but with dreams and public benefit applications automatically approved with a voter registration application to boot. I can almost guess which party affiliation is preprinted.

    If we really want to stop “illegal ” or the more politically correct “undocumented” term instead of
    Wasting time and money chasing the immigrants, we should transfer those resources to eliminating the desire to come here in the first place. I can tell you now their not comming here because of the American dream. There here because of the economic dream only. Then on every 5 of May they cloak themselves in the Mexican flag and say how much they love Mexico.

    If we cut off the money and get serious about the enforcement of “enablers” both economic and political and review our immigration / citizenship procedures this problem will drastically decrease if not end.

    Then again why don’t the Mexicans vote for Mexico to become part of the US ? The can have their own “BREXIT”.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I as a working person am sick and tired of paying entitlements to those who don’t work, or work for cash, or get benefits (including grants, free daycare and education and medical) because they choose to abuse the system. Anyone who is undocumented who is injured should be returned to their county for their medical care. We should only stabilize someone in critical situations so they can be returned to where they came from. If they are repeat offenders they should be jailed. Toughen up on penalties and people will fear breaking and bending laws.

  10. The Oracle says:

    If someone breaks in to your home, are they an undocumented visitor? Enough is enough, our country is 20 trillion dollars in debt, and borrowing money from other countries. Love one another, and respect the laws of all nations.

  11. Sherry says:

    Enough “IS” enough, alright!!!

    We US citizens want “CHEAP” tomatoes, roofs in the summer heat, cesspools cleaned, hotel rooms scrubbed, nursing home care. . . etc. etc. To hell with the minimum wage and worker’s compensation. . . if those “sub-humans” complain deport “THEM”! We DEMAND CHEAP, CHEAPER, CHEAPEST labor!

    Bring back slavery!

  12. Stan says:

    If you are undocumented you are illegal,you have no rights.Bye-Bye

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