This week the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee issued a little noticed opinion that may have far reaching implications in establishing what I and others call "market based immigration reform." The dirty little secret is that crony capitalism has delayed and prohibited meaningful immigration reform for far too long. The government likes to collect payroll taxes on illegal workers knowing that in most instances they will not have to pay that money back to those workers in the form of government retirement benefits when those workers return to their home countries. Businesses, mainly the construction and agricultural industries, love illegal workers because they drive down the cost of labor and allow the employer to willingly violate state and federal employment laws knowing that the worker will not claim complain.
Business interests claim that they do not "knowingly" hire illegal labor. This is a lie. When you pull up to a group of guys standing on a street corner, none of whom speak English and do not have identification it is a safe be that you are hiring illegal workers. Now you may ask why this important to you. For the last thirteen years I have practiced workers' compensation law in Florida representing both employers and injured workers. I have been involved in cases where the employer hires an illegal alien and then when that person gets injured on the job, dump them off at the county hospital advising the worker to tell the hospital that he "fell off of a bicycle." Who then pays for this persons care, YOU DO, in the form of taxes.
Workers' compensation insurance is one of the largest expenses an employer may have, sometimes exceeding payroll, especially in the areas of construction and agriculture. When an employer cheats by hiring illegal workers it gives them an unfair competitive advantage against those employers who operate their business according to the law. In HDV Construction Systems Inc. v. Aragon, a Jacksonville case I might add, the Court held that an illegal alien is entitled to receive permanent total disability benefits when the employer "knows or should have known" that the person who the employer hired was not legal. It has long been the public policy of Florida that business and not tax payers bear the cost of workers injured on their job when the employer is best positioned to prevent the injury and also stands to profit from that persons labor.
Use of the e-verify system is growing and is being promoted by Senator Rubio as a component to solving the illegal immigration problem. Many employers and the Chamber of Commerce oppose e-verify claiming that it makes them responsible for policing immigration. I don't hear them complaining about being the governments tax collector as they are required to deduct payroll and other taxes from a workers paycheck. It s simply a matter of supply and demand. When we reduce the demand for illegal work we will reduce the supply of illegal workers. E-verify will not solve the problem but it is a piece of the puzzle.
The lesson to be learned from the Court is that if you don't want to pay for your illegal workers when they get injured on your job then don't hire them in the first place. It is appalling that the Florida Chamber of Commerce opposes immigration reform because as it claims, "it will cost Florida billions of dollars because illegal workers spend lots of money in this state." Well that's an interesting claim, if I rob a bank in Florida and then spend the money in Florida does it make my activity any less illegal? Of course not and they know it.
I urge all of you to read this important opinion linked below so we can have a real discussion about immigration reform and not the false choices presented by the media and politicians and to convince some of those that claim to be on our team that they are part of the problem and need to be part of the solution.http://opinions.1dca.org/written/opinions2011/06-28-2011/10-6401.pdf