News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Ruling in illegalís comp suit complicates complex issue

Workers who are in the country illegally and injured on the job are entitled to workers' compensation benefits in Alabama, a Birmingham judge ruled.

The decision muddies the already murky issues involving the rights of those who are in the country illegally.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge G. William Noble ruled that Henry W. Lambert Construction Inc. must pay 17-year-old Omar Santos Cruz workers' compensation benefits of $240 per week for the rest of his life, plus all medical expenses. Mr. Santos Cruz, who was in the country illegally, was working for the construction company last year when he fell through a window on a job site. He remains partially paralyzed.

Lambert and the Home Builders Association of Alabama wanted the judge to deny benefits for the teen based on his immigration status.

W. Russell Davis, an executive vice president of the Home Builders Association, acknowledged that Hispanics provide essential skills to the state's booming construction industry. Without them, he said, the industry would not have enough skilled trades workers to keep up with demand.

While we don't condone the flood of immigrants coming into the country illegally, we also believe the Home Builders Association was trying to have it both ways.

If construction companies or other employers benefit from the hard work of employees without first confirming the workers' status — or worse, looking the other way when confronted by the illegals' status — then those employers should provide fair wages and benefits to those workers, including compensation when they are hurt on the job.

Employers should think twice before hiring workers they know or suspect are in the country illegally.

That would be a good development in a complicated and problematic issue that isn't going away soon.

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