- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

ESSEX, Md. — State Delegate Patrick L. McDonough said yesterday he will propose legislation in the upcoming General Assembly to keep illegal aliens from receiving workers compensation.

His decision follows a state Court of Appeals ruling Monday that upheld a lower court ruling that such compensation must be paid to illegal aliens.

“The federal Immigration Act states you cannot aid or abet an illegal alien,” said Mr. McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican. “It’s a felony.”

The panel of seven judges ruled 6-1 that state law does not specify that an illegal alien who is an undocumented worker cannot receive compensation if injured on the job.

“We have no doubt that the clear and unambiguous language of [state law] encompasses undocumented aliens,” wrote Chief Judge Robert Bell.

The court ruled in favor of Diego E. Lagos, an undocumented worker who injured his hand with a saw while working for Design Kitchen and Baths of Montgomery County.

Mr. McDonough said his proposed legislation would state that illegals are unauthorized workers and cannot receive state benefits. The proposal also would require the state’s Worker’s Compensation Commission to ensure that every person requesting compensation be a U.S. citizen or an authorized worker.

Mr. McDonough said taxpayers are already covering the cost of education and health care for the families of people who enter the country illegally to work.

Thomas P. O’Reilly, chairman of the unemployment commission, said the agency does not check the immigration status of workers requesting compensation.

He said applicants are supposed to give a Social Security number but acknowledged they sometimes don’t provide the information.

Mr. O’Reilly estimated that 28,000 of 180,000 injured workers file requests with the commission each year but thinks “very few” of them are illegal aliens.

“We don’t see [illegals] very often,” he said. “That’s not to say there may not be undocumented workers who have cleverly masked their status in some way, because nobody’s out here saying ‘Let me see your green card.’ ”

Delegate Luiz Simmons, Montgomery County Democrat, was Mr. Lagos’ attorney in the case. Mr. Simmons said the court’s decision accurately interpreted state law, which protects undocumented workers from unscrupulous employers and keeps the financial burden of compensating workers on private insurance companies.

“If you don’t require [employers] to carry compensation [insurance], you are providing a huge incentive to hire undocumented people,” he said.

Mr. McDonough, who said he had 15 bills on immigration rejected in the past three years, sharply criticized Mr. Simmons’ involvement in the case.

“We have a legislator who is blatantly flaunting federal law as an attorney and representing a known illegal alien,” he said.

Mr. McDonough plans to ask the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland whether Mr. Simmons violated federal law. He also plans to introduce legislation prohibiting day laborer centers in Maryland, including those in Takoma Park and Silver Spring.

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