On March 16, the ACLU, the National Employment Law Project, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Transnational Legal Clinic will testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. At issue is the U.S. government’s failure to ensure that undocumented workers in the United States can access workplace protections. While undocumented workers undertake some of the most dangerous, low-wage jobs in the United States, the patchwork of state labor laws leaves many of these workers vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination, without legal protections when they are injured at work. Moreover, some employers have taken advantage of this situation to report undocumented workers to immigration officers for deportation when they report labor abuses.
The petitioners for this hearing are Francisco Berumen Lizalde and Leopoldo Zumaya. Mr. Berumen Lizalde fell from a scaffold while working as a painter in Kansas, fracturing his hand and making it impossible for him to work. Before he could receive a medical evaluation required by the employer’s insurance company for compensation, immigration officials came to his home and arrested him (after the insurance company had reported him). He was subsequently deported to Mexico. Mr. Zumaya was working as an apple-picker in Pennsylvania when he fell from a tree, breaking his leg. His employers fired him and refused to compensate him once they realized he would not be able to return to work. Mr. Zumaya, who has returned to Mexico, still struggles to walk and experiences chronic pain.