JUNE 20, 2008
For the second time this week an appellate court has reversed a lower court decision to rule in favor of those who violate the nation’s immigration laws, this time making it illegal to fire undocumented workers who use fake Social Security numbers to get their job.
On the heels of an Idaho Supreme Court ruling that said an illegal immigrant can still be a legal resident entitled to free public medical care, a federal appellate court in California said that employees can’t be fired merely because they use fake Social Security numbers.
The case involves 48 Los Angeles janitors who submitted Social Security numbers that differed from the numbers on the government’s federal database. In other words, they used fake numbers to get a job they weren’t entitled to. The janitorial company, Aramark, gave the illegal workers three days to clear up the problem but only 15 did. The other 33 were fired.
A federal judge sided with Aramark but the janitors appealed to the Ninth U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The notoriously liberal court ordered Aramark to rehire the janitors with back pay, saying employees can’t be fired merely because the Social Security number they submit differs from the number on the government files.
In its decision, a three-judge panel wrote that a Social Security discrepancy “does not automatically mean that an employee is undocumented.” It also noted that federal law penalizes employers only if they knowingly employ illegal immigrants and that requires more evidence than a mismatch in the Social Security database, which the court said was not designed for immigration enforcement.
Issued days earlier, the Idaho ruling was equally bizarre. Although a state law prohibits giving public benefits to those who are not legal residents, the state’s Supreme Court ordered taxpayers in one county to pay for the costly medical care of an illegal immigrant because “the concept of residency does not distinguish between citizens and those who have entered this country illegally. “
The illegal immigrant from Mexico suffered a stroke in 2006 and racked up a $187,000 medical bill at a hospital located in the state’s largest county—Ada County—with a population of about 300,000. Unable to pay the exorbitant bill, the man applied for emergency medical indigent assistance from the county but was denied because of his legal status. A district court agreed with the county but hospital officials, desperate to get paid, appealed to the state Supreme Court and won.
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