Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would block insurance companies from reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
The bill was drafted in response to a Pro Publica/NPR joint investigation detailing more than 130 cases in which workplace insurers flagged illegal immigrants injured in workplace accidents to authorities, allowing insurers to avoid paying for their treatment.
The workers were hit with felony fraud charges for seeking treatment with fake identification, and in some cases were deported without being treated for serious injuries.
The new bill, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer, alters a 2003 state workers comp law so that it will apply only to individuals who perpetrate traditional workers comp fraud, rather than anyone who uses false identification in filing a claim.
“We have a whole separate system to deal with immigration status,” Farmer told Pro Publica. “All of that is neither here nor there. It comes down to the fact that these folks were doing their job, got hurt while they were doing their job, and the separate issue of immigration status shouldn’t be used to take away the benefits that they’re entitled to.”
While the bill does not yet have companion legislation in the Florida House, it has been endorsed by lawmakers in both parties, as well as insurance groups. It may be included as an amendment to a separate worker’s comp bill moving through both chambers.
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