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The push to deny workers’ comp benefits to illegal immigrants

The recent elections have resulted in conservatives taking control of legislatures in some states, which as with any change in power means a change in priorities.  One change that would affect workers is a renewed push in some areas to pass legislation that would deny workers’ comp benefits to illegal immigrants hurt on the job.


The strong anti-immigrant feeling in some conservative camps is fueling this renewed push.  The idea of passing laws to keep workers’ comp benefits from getting to illegal immigrants is not new.  It has been tried before, but for practical reasons such laws have been abandoned.


Why to opponents to such legislation think it is a bad idea?  If illegal immigrants are barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits:

  • Illegal immigrants without such benefits would be able, under U.S. law, to sue their employers.  This civil litigation option is not available to workers covered by workers’ comp insurance, which some see as a way to protect businesses from lawsuits.
  • If businesses did not have to pay for workers’ comp insurance for illegal immigrants, they may want to hire more illegal immigrants as workers.  Workers that do not have to be covered by insurance are cheaper, and the threat of civil litigation would probably not be enough to keep businesses from taking advantage of much cheaper illegal work.


Without comprehensive immigration reform from the federal government, states are going to keep taking these types of matters into their own hands.  So far New York is not one of the states pushing these changes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.