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- NORTH on skyline drive
PHOENIX — Rep. Russell Pearce doesn't think that people who are working in this country illegally should be able to get benefits if they're injured on the job.
But Pearce's effort to bar compensation is getting a fight from business interests that fear that the alternative would be far worse: lawsuits.
David Selden, a member of the board of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the workers' compensation program is set up as a no-fault system. Companies agree to cover medical bills and a percentage of lost wages regardless of whether the injury is due to employee or company negligence.
In exchange, though, employers generally cannot be sued: The workers have to accept the benefits within the workers'- comp law.
But Selden said that if the injured employees are denied benefits, then they are free to sue. And Selden said even if the company eventually wins in court, that can be an expensive process.
Pearce, a Republican, is unmoved by business protests. He said any company that hires an undocumented worker probably deserves to be sued.
And Pearce said he sees workers' compensation coverage as a tax, even though the benefits are covered through insurance premiums paid by companies or, in the case of some large firms, through self-insurance.
"Any time you use the force of government and you mandate programs, it's a tax," he said. "We take money from businesses, put it into a pool to cover these kinds of issues."
Pearce is having some trouble convincing colleagues — and not just Democrats. In fact, one version of his proposal failed to clear the House Commerce Committee on a 5-5 vote.
Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, said Pearce is "well intended." But Konopnicki, who owns several McDonald's franchises, called it "very detrimental to business."
That is unlikely to be the last word: Pearce said he will continue efforts to push through measures that he believes will cut down on illegal immigration. And he said halting people who work here without documents from getting benefits is one piece of that solution.
"The public has spoken loud and clear," Pearce said. "We keep coddling employers we know intentionally hire illegal aliens." (I like to ask, "would you like to contribute to the illegal immigrants fund and provide for the illegal aliens residing in Arizona?") There are a lot of people who would be like, "NO," Yet those same people don't see that the money they spent on Saturday's night dinner and drinks helped pay rent for an illegal dishwasher. The don't see, that every time you go to a restaurant or get landscaping done, you are giving away money to illegals. Plain and Simple. there is no gray area. I am so sick of it...someone needs to say something. We need stricter laws. Why is it okay to hire an illegal alien, however it is a felony to bring one across the boarder? Our government is a joke...
Much of the debate surrounds whether companies knowingly employ illegal immigrants or, at the very least, don't make a big effort to determine if applicants are in this country legally.
The Pew Center for Hispanic Studies estimates there are about 500,000 people in Arizona illegally. And the presumption is that a good percentage are working — meaning someone is hiring them.
Pearce said he believes that many employers do the minimum checking possible of the required documents. So he said he has no sympathy for employers who might get stuck in a lawsuit from an injured worker.
"You know the liability, you know the Arizona Constitution," he said.
Konopnicki said it's not as simple as that. He said employers can only do so much to verify the veracity of documents presented to them by applicants.
"I do my due diligence," he said, including filling out the federal I-9 form that lists what documents must be provided. And Konopnicki said he keeps copies of the documents presented.
"I don't hire illegals as an employer," he said. But Konopnicki said legislation like this harms "mom and pop" operations that do the right thing, have a worker who is injured and then find out that the workers' compensation coverage they purchased won't protect them.
Selden said the flaws with what Pearce wants to do go beyond the hardship on employers.
He said a worker who is hurt is sent to a health clinic that specializes in industrial injuries. But he said that if during that treatment it is learned the person is here illegally — meaning no insurance for treatment — there would be a temptation to transfer that person to a public hospital where the cost would be borne by taxpayers.
They want a government directed program, which is undeniably partially funded by OUR tax dollars. Never mind the fact that they’re here illegally, working illegally, and not even paying taxes!
You see, this is what enrages me. I know I should not allow emotions to get involved, when dealing with basic principles of right and wrong. I just cannot comprehend it. Where's the logic? Who is unable to see how ridiculous this all is?
"They should get workmans' comp because they're illegal and can't afford health insurance."
"They should get amnesty because they're breaking the law."
"Their children should get scholarships because they can't afford college tuition because they're illegal and only get paid 10 dollars an hour."
"They should all get health care provided to them because they cannot afford to pay their medical bills."
What's next? Seriously...