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Undocumented Workers Petition for Non-Discrimination
Law & Politics | 2006/11/03 19:35

NEW YORK - (ACLU) The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Employment Law Project and the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law today filed a petition urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to find the United States in violation of its universal human rights obligations by failing to protect millions of undocumented workers from exploitation and discrimination in the workplace.

The petition was submitted to the commission on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Interfaith Justice Network and six immigrant workers who are representative of the six million undocumented workers in the United States labor force.

"The most poorly paid and least desirable jobs in the United States are filled by undocumented immigrants, yet the government increasingly limits the safeguards available to this population, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and workplace discrimination," said Claudia Flores, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. "The United States government has an obligation under universal human rights norms to protect vulnerable populations, such as immigrant women, and has failed in this regard."

Undocumented immigrants make up nearly five percent of the U.S. labor force. However, employment and labor protections under state laws have been either eliminated or severely limited for undocumented workers in some states. These include such basic workplace protections as freedom from workplace discrimination and entitlement to hold an employer responsible for a workplace injury.

"International human rights law requires the United States to apply its workplace protections equally and without discrimination based on immigration status. We bring this petition to cast a global spotlight on the U.S. government’s poor human rights record in protecting undocumented workers from discrimination and to demand accountability from states and the federal government, all of whom are obligated to protect and defend human rights," said Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program.

The individuals named in today’s petition have each tried to assert their workplace rights but were unsuccessful. They are:

Jesus L., a Michigan poultry worker who suffered severe injuries, requiring spinal reconstruction surgery, after falling from the top of a chicken house onto a concrete floor. The insurance company for Jesus’ employer refused to provide workers’ compensation to cover time off work because he was undocumented.

Yolanda L.R., a widow whose husband was killed on a construction site in New York because of his employer’s criminal negligence. Yolanda’s compensation for her husband’s wrongful death compensation will be affected by his immigration status.

Francisco Berumen Lizalde, a painter in Kansas who was prosecuted and deported, likely as a consequence of filing a workers’ compensation claim after he fell from scaffolding and fractured his hand.

Leopoldo Z., a Pennsylvania farm worker who underwent three surgeries and continues to suffer nerve damage and chronic pain as a result of a workplace accident. Leopoldo’s employer suspended his medical benefits when it became clear he would not be able to promptly return to work.

Melissa L., a woman who had to leave her job in New Jersey when workplace sexual harassment became intolerable. She filed a claim against her employer, but because

Michael J. Fox Campaigns for Stem Cell Research
Law & Politics | 2006/11/03 18:35

Michael J. Fox rallied Thursday with about 100 people for Maryland's Democratic Senate candidate, Congressman Ben Cardin. Fox says he campaigns for candidates who support embryonic stem cell research.

Fox has appeared in television ads for Cardin and other candidates around the country who support federal funding for such research, to find cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, from which he suffers, "I'm supporting candidates who support embryonic stem cell research in races where their opponents simply don't," he said.

Cardin's Republican opponent Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, opposes research that would destroy a human embryo.

"We are who we are, we have what we have, we want what we want, and we have the right to seek representation that will get it for us," Fox said, encouraging voters with such debilitating diseases to become active in politics. Fox had plans to campaign for Democrat Jim Webb in that state's Senate race in Virginia that evening.

According to Cardin , "We're losing our best scientists to other countries" that fund embryonic stem cell research. Cardin opined that Republican opposition to the research is hurting the nation.

After the Fox rally, Cardin was headed to Baltimore for a rally with former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, a Democrat from North Carolina.

Cardin attended a rally in rally Prince George's County - a counter to a Steele endorsement earlier in the week by Demorats in the predominantly black county. Steele is the first African-American elected statewide in Maryland; Cardin is white.

Backing Steele, the lieutenant governor introduced a group of ministers who are suuportive of Steele.

"I don't know anyone who wants to be poor. I don't know anyone who wants to be illiterate," Steele said to applause from the ministers, most of whom were black.

Steele's election platform focused on his promises to reduce poverty and push for more foreign aid to Africa and the Caribbean. He also promised to try to increase federal aid for small business development and college tuition.

Breaking Legal
Sheryl Jones
Staf Writer

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