According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the construction industry is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. For undocumented construction workers, the risks are even higher that they will suffer a devastating or fatal injury. New York City’s recent construction boom has grabbed the public’s attention to the plight of undocumented construction workers as more and more serious and fatal injuries take place among this group of workers.
As competition for building contracts rises, more and more construction companies are looking for ways to cut costs and offer a low bid. Many of these companies hire undocumented immigrants because they are willing to work “off the books” and for a much lower wage than unionized workers. As employers cut costs by hiring the undocumented worker, many also take advantage of the opportunity to skip the mandated ten hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training required by the State of New York. A lack of protective safety equipment such as helmets, harnesses, and well maintained scaffolding, added to the lack of proper safety training, equals a formula for disaster for these construction workers.
What perpetuates the problem even further is the fact that the majority of undocumented construction workers avoid drawing attention to themselves for fear of being fired by employers, or deported by immigration officials. They refrain from speaking up and demanding a safer workplace. Moreover, they will often not tell the truth about how they got hurt when they seek medical attention for their injuries because they fear retribution from their employer. Once the worker is injured and unable to continue working, there are no Workers’ Compensation benefits or major medical insurance to support the individual and their family while they recover. Without insurance and income, medical bills and living expenses force many out of apartments and into the streets.
President Obama’s recent Executive Order instituting immigration reform is the first ray of hope for these undocumented construction workers. The protection from deportation, and the availability of work permits for these people, will hopefully make employers more accountable for the safety and well being of their employees. Without the fear of deportation and privileges extended through employment visas, undocumented construction workers will hopefully feel more secure to speak up and demand training, proper safety equipment, maintenance of scaffolding and machinery, and medical benefits in the event of an injury.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, PC Provide Legal Counsel and Representation to Undocumented Construction Workers
Leaving your native homeland to immigrate to a foreign land in the hopes of making a better life for yourself and your family carries tremendous risks. Once in the United States, an immigrant should not be subjected to increased risks by working in unsafe environments. If you or someone you know is working as an undocumented construction worker and has faced injury or unsafe conditions in the workplace, the experienced and multilingual Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, PC can help you. Contact us toll free at 888-452-9578, or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.