Leopolda Zumaya was working as an apple picker in Pennsylvania when he fell from a tree, breaking his leg and leaving him with permanent nerve damage and a chronic pain disorder. A treating physician said Mr. Zumaya's injuries were among the worst he'd seen, but when his boss learned Mr. Zumaya could not return to work, he ejected Mr. Zumaya from the farm labor camp where he lived and refused to pay benefits. More than eight years later, Mr. Zumaya continues to suffer chronic pain and struggles to walk.

Every day in the United States, workers in low-wage jobs risk their health and their lives providing basic services in hazardous conditions, with little protection for themselves or their families when they are injured on the job. A recent NPR and ProPublica investigation found that "employers are paying the lowest rates for workers' comp insurance since the 1970s" with cutbacks in benefits "so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty."

For undocumented workers like Mr. Zumaya, who comprise over five percent of the U.S. workforce, requesting compensation and medical care after a work injury is often futile and can result in retaliation. Workers who have requested their wages, reported labor abuses, sought compensation for work injuries, or reported sexual harassment by employers have been arrested and deported by U.S. immigration officers when employers retaliate. While immigration reform and President Obama's executive action hang in the balance, millions of undocumented workers remain in a vulnerable and exploited position, doing some of the most dangerous work in the country but with limited safeguards or recourse when injured.

Under a 2011 Department of Homeland Security memo on immigration enforcement, undocumented workers qualify for prosecutorial discretion. That means they shouldn't be pursued for arrest and deportation if they are victims of workplace abuse or if they are attempting to enforce their labor rights. Nonetheless, some employers continue to threaten undocumented workers and report them to immigration authorities when they pursue their rights.

And despite the DHS memo, over the past several years, legal protections for undocumented workers have been declining.

In 2002, in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an undocumented worker, illegally fired for participating in protected union activities, could not recover back pay – i.e., the wages they would have earned if they had not been fired. While some states, like California, do recognize greater labor rights for undocumented workers, several others were emboldened by the Hoffman decision to limit or even eliminate core workplace protections, like compensation for injuries. The expansion of these laws has further jeopardized the welfare of a growing underclass of exploited workers, hired for hazardous, low-wage jobs but with limited ability to protest and report abuses and to see recompense when those abuses occur.

In response to this downward spiral, the ACLU, the National Employment Law Project, and the University of Pennsylvania's Transnational Legal Clinic filed a petition in 2006 with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, challenging the U.S. government's failure to protect our clients – and millions like them – from exploitation and discrimination in the workplace. Human rights law recognizes the rights of all workers, regardless of their legal status, to be treated humanely and justly, without discrimination.

On March 16 – almost eight years later – our clients are finally getting a hearing before the commission and a chance to vindicate their human right to fair treatment. Their stories, like those of millions of other undocumented workers in the United States, remind us of what's at stake for workers who support our economy and undertake some of our most dangerous jobs but are laboring in the shadows.

And while we wait for the promised immigration reform and stronger worker protections, we call upon the U.S. government to ensure that undocumented workers are not deported for asserting rights.

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RRR

Mr Zumaya was breaking the law.

Anonymous

The "fair" way to treat undocumented "workers" is to kick their butts out of the country; nothing more, nothing less. The don't belong here...and, as entities that don't belong here, they don't deserve consideration for situations of their OWN making....beyond (again) kicking their butts out of the country.

Anonymous

They don't make their own situation for themselves. Undocumented immigrants come to the US because we are literally the poster nation for liberty and freedom. If we sully that image by preaching the Constitution and simultaneously shutting the door on the people who need the constitution the most, then we don't deserve to be called "the land of the free."

Anonymous

This article points out some problems, but it is also insulting to US citizens and ACLU members who are absolutely NOT in favor of illegal immigration. These workers are entitled to sue for whatever they want, but these workers are VIOLATING US labor laws. Moreover, after their hearings - win, lose, or draw, they should be deported - with a bundle of lawsuit payout cash in hand, or not. This may make it so that they don't want to report things, but this is the position they have put themselves in. Immigration enforcement doesn't just stop at the border. Illegal immigrants don't get to tell us what to do. They are invading our country and they are causing many, many problems. They are now even barking demands of us - they are demanding to become US citizens on the basis that they have been able to evade the border patrol and DPS for a number of years! They have the right to file lawsuits, but we have a right to deport them in a timely manner afterwards.

Does the author of this article know anything about illegal immigration? For instance, does she know that if a number of things are given to illegal immigrants "out of convenience", then it's more likely that the illegal immigrants will be able to claim they are in the jurisdiction of the United States. This claim is powerful for them, and more specifically, it is the constitutional mechanism for their children becoming US citizens. As it is, their children are granted citizenship, but they should be granted citizenship because illegal immigrants are NOT under US jurisdiction - at least not in constitutional terms . But if we start giving out driver's licenses and other handouts, then that changes.

Foreigners have NO right to enter our country without our permission, and foreigners have NO right to take our jobs without our permission. Imagine if two criminals involved in a criminal deal had an altercation. The ACLU should support both sides' right to sue each other and have recourse for this matter. But, that is the extent of where CIVIL LIBERTIES are at stake. Anything after that is not an ACLU matter. Likewise, foreigners do NOT have a right to be in our country illegally, lawsuit or not, deported for filing a grievance or not.

If you feel sorry for illegal immigrants, your sorrow is misplaced. There are lots of people to feel sorry for around the world, but the people US citizens must care for FIRST is US citizens. And this isn't a radical idea. In the borderlands, they try to displace US citizens, and these are not gang-bangers I'm talking about. You canonize them at saints, but you know almost nothing about them, except that they're nice to you when you take up their cause, usually for things inexplicably based on a pro-illegal-immigration agenda having nothing to do with American civil liberties. To take from US citizens and give to foreigners is a crime. Sometimes it can even be treason. This is what illegal immigration is. This is all it is.

And these are not "undocumented workers". These are illegal immigrants. If you can lie about illegal immigrants by obscuring who they really are, then what's next? Slaves were really "servants"?

Cesar Chavez:

"For so many years we have been involved in agricultural strikes; organizing almost 30 years as a worker, as an organizer, and as president of the union--and for all these almost 30 years it is apparent that when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking.
I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers.... The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking....
We have observed all these years the Immigration Service has a policy as it has been related to us, that they will not take sides in any agricultural labor dispute.... They have not taken sides means permitting the growers to have unrestricted use of illegal aliens as strikebreakers, and if that isn't taking sides, I don't know what taking sides means."

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=610

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ9jIXHhFJI

I'm sick and tired of reading these articles on the ACLU blog. Believe me, there are other ways for me to spend my time and money. I call on the leadership of the ACLU to change, or for the ACLU leadership to be changed. The ACLU is simply not addressing American civil liberties with this agenda. The current ACLU leadership is allowing the ACLU to be used as a cover for a pro-illegal-immigration agenda. This is un-American.

Anonymous

Let's see, are they "people lacking documents", or are they illegal immigrants?

"For so many years we have been involved in agricultural strikes; organizing almost 30 years as a worker, as an organizer, and as president of the union--and for all these almost 30 years it is apparent that when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike. And, for over 30 years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strikebreaking.
I do not remember one single instance in 30 years where the Immigration service has removed strikebreakers.... The employers use professional smugglers to recruit and transport human contraband across the Mexican border for the specific act of strikebreaking....
We have observed all these years the Immigration Service has a policy as it has been related to us, that they will not take sides in any agricultural labor dispute.... They have not taken sides means permitting the growers to have unrestricted use of illegal aliens as strikebreakers, and if that isn't taking sides, I don't know what taking sides means." Cesar Chavez

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=610

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ9jIXHhFJI

Anonymous

What about documented workers injured on the job and insurance companies refusing to help get them back to full duty thus creating a larger lower class and not to mention destroying families

Anonymous

I have only one question ,by all those in favor of deporting the illegals, who will pick all the lettuce carrots broccoli and other fruit and vegetables that we legal citizens consume . are we going to the fields to pick all the fruits and veges i doubt it i for one like going to the clean air conditioned grocery store i havent had to pick anything i don't want to start. i truly appreciate all the illegals and the hard work they do for all of us.my question is if the illegals get deported tomorrow whos picking all those crops? I had tomatoe lettuce and ham for lunch im having steamed broccoli for dinner what are all those whos in favor of deportation having

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