Noelle Phillips, The State (Columbia, SC), Mar. 21
Cinthia Duenaz used a fake Social Security card and work permit to get a job slicing skins and bones from chicken breasts at a Gold Kist plant in Sumter.
Her first name on her job application — Cinthia — was spelled differently from the “Cynthia” on her work permit.
Gold Kist either did not notice or did not care that Cinthia was an illegal immigrant.
The company, however, did care about Duenaz’s legal status when she fell off a stool at work and needed medical treatment. Gold Kist tried, unsuccessfully, to refuse paying for her treatment.
Duenaz isn’t alone.
Antonio, a 19-year-old illegal worker who lost his leg in an accident two years ago, also ran into the same problem when it came time to pay his hospital bills.
Attorneys who represent illegal aliens in workers’ compensation cases say insurance companies often try to deny payments.
Duenaz hired an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim on her behalf. Gold Kist denied the claim, saying Duenaz was not covered because she was an illegal worker.
But the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled in Duenaz’s favor this month. Under workers’ compensation laws, legal residency does not matter.
But bills filed before the S.C. Legislature would change that.
In January, two state representatives filed bills that would eliminate workers’ compensation claims for illegal aliens who obtain jobs through fraud, such as presenting fake ID cards and Social Security numbers.
The proposed changes are part of an effort to rewrite S.C. workers’ compensation laws.
The move to deny illegal workers’ claims has not progressed in the Legislature. But the move concerns the state’s Hispanic community, which makes up the largest number of undocumented workers.
Hispanic workers make up 3 percent of South Carolina’s population and account for about 20 percent of workplace deaths and injuries.
The year Moises and Rigoberto died in the trench, Hispanics represented a third of the 33 workers killed on the job in South Carolina. Last year, a fifth of the 34 workers killed were Hispanic. Almost a fourth of the 36 workers involved in serious injuries at work in 2004 were Hispanic.