Monday, March 7, 2005

Maryland taxpayers have spent as much as $1.5 million in workers’ compensation for illegal immigrants in the past two years, a Republican delegate said based on data from the state Department of Legislative Services (DLS).

The state Workers’ Compensation Commission paid $670,542 in fiscal 2003 and $826,482 in fiscal 2004 to 192 workers who did not have Social Security numbers, according to a Feb. 15 letter from DLS to Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, who says those workers are most likely illegal aliens.

“These are the same benefits that are denied to American citizens on a daily basis,” said Mr. Impallaria, a Baltimore County Republican who has called for a study on the effect of illegal immigration on the state.

In the Feb. 15 letter to Mr. Impallaria, DLS policy analyst Charles W. Smith IV said it is not known how many of the 192 workers were illegal immigrants because the commission “does not keep records on the residency status of each claimant. …”

“It is important to note, however, that while illegal immigrants do not have Social Security numbers, many people who are here legally do not either,” Mr. Smith wrote. “People who fall into this latter category include those with work visas or work permits.”

However, Mr. Smith also noted that the “average cost of a workers’ compensation claim in Maryland, including both lost time and medical cost, is $7,797.” He added that the figures are a “crude approximation.”

Thomas Patrick O’Reilly, chairman of the compensation commission, did not return a call seeking comment.

Dolline Hatchett, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Labor, declined comment.

Mr. Impallaria, a member of the House Economic Matters Committee, said he hopes the letter will push the panel to study the effect of illegal aliens.

“Good legal businesses are paying into this fund to have illegal business people who are illegally entering the country receive payments,” he said.

“I believe that we should immediately stop paying all benefits to anyone who has entered the country illegally, and that incudes welfare, housing or any other type of benefit that is paid with taxpayer money,” Mr. Impallaria said.

He is co-sponsoring legislation for a study on illegal immigration for the second consecutive year.

The study — one of six immigration-related bills he has co-sponsored — is being considered in the House committee this month. The other bills call for:

• Requiring Baltimore County police to arrest illegal aliens without warrants and turn them over to federal authorities.

• Barring illegal immigrants from receiving state services.

• Seizing cars driven by illegal aliens and suspending the licenses of anyone who allows illegal immigrants to drive their vehicles.

• Creating a task force to study whether health care workers should be required to report treating illegal aliens.

• Making English the official state language.

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