Posts Tagged ‘immigrant workers’

The Iceman Cometh

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

This will be hard.

For a moment, squeeze yourself into the tight shoes of one of America’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

Eight million of you are working. You make up 5% of the civilian workforce. Twenty-six percent of you work in farming; 15% in construction. A lot of people complain you and your unauthorized, undocumented, illegal alien brethren are taking jobs from Americans who need them, although you haven’t seen a lot of those Americans lining up to pick the fruits and veggies in the hot sun.

You have a job. It’s in construction. Not important how you got it – phony papers, no papers, whatever. You live in one of the 14 states that expressly allow workers’ compensation coverage for unauthorized immigrants. There are another 24 where coverage is allowed in practice, but not expressly allowed in the statute. And, every once in a while some state legislature will try to expressly exclude you and all the others. But those attempts are always beaten back by, of all things, the business community, because adopting a law like that might lead to unfair competition.

You’re married with three children, all born in the USA. You’ve been here for seven years, although two-thirds of all unauthorized immigrants have been here for at least a decade. You’ve never been in trouble. With anyone. You own a car, but no one will ever mistake it for a Tesla. It gets you around, though. It especially gets you to work.

Last week, you fell off a ladder at work and broke your leg. First time you’ve ever been hurt at work. A Supervisor took you to an Urgent Care Center where a doctor set your leg. Unfortunate, but you’re going to be out of work for eight weeks. Can’t be helped, but, because you live in one of the magical 14 states, you’ll get workers’ compensation.

Two days later the owner calls to tell you not to worry about anything. He says he wants to make things easier for you and the family. He thinks it would help if he gave you some cash to tide you over until the workers’ comp kicks in. Why not come into the office tomorrow at, say, 11:00, so he can do that? You’re grateful, and, in your broken English, you thank him and tell him you’ll be there.

Tomorrow comes. Eleven AM and you’re hobbling in the door to the office, broken leg and all, which is when the train comes off the rails. The owner’s not there, but ICE is. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, come to arrest you. And that’s what happens.

Two weeks later you and your broken leg are sitting in the county house of correction waiting to find out what will happen to you. You’re worried deep in your bones for your wife and three kids. Worried? No, you’re terrified. So, there you sit.

How’d that feel? Having a nice day, are we?

That story’s not fiction. It happened last week in Massachusetts. The man in whose shoes you were walking is 37-year-old Jose Flores who, with his wife Rosa Benitez, fled gang violence in Honduras seven years ago. Flores now has two lawyers, one for workers’ comp, the other for ICE. The lawyers know he’s entitled to workers’ compensation coverage, but wonder how he’ll collect it if he’s deported to Honduras. So far, the Iceman hasn’t come calling for Rosa Benitez, but that could change anytime. She and the kids are living in constant fear.

What about that owner who called ICE to come get Flores? He is Pedro Pirez. His company, Tara Construction, employs roughly ten people, and, so far, he has no comment about any of this. We do know one thing. On the day Flores fell off the ladder Tara Construction was not insured for workers’ compensation.

So, who’s committing the bigger fraud? Flores or Pirez? Something to think about.


Report: Immigrant worker exploitation in the building trades

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The issue of immigrant deportation is front and center in this year’s impending election. There’s a lot of anger and invective aimed at immigrant workers, today, both those who are legal and illegal. One side of the story that is not told frequently enough is that of the unscrupulous employers who exploit these workers. For more than a dozen years, we’ve been talking about the abuse of workers who do the most dangerous jobs under appalling conditions – a situation that is often characterized as modern day slavery by journalists who investigate the employment practices.

In 2005 we wrote:

It’s one of our nation’s dirty little secrets: immigrant workers are doing some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, are being injured and dying disproportionately in those jobs, and denied benefits when injuries and deaths occur. In a political climate where the rhetoric and emotions are high and seemingly getting higher by the day, a “blame the victim” mentality is pervasive.

The latest case in point is illustrated in an investigative report in the Boston Globe by Beth Healy and Megan Woolhouse: In building boom, immigrant workers face exploitation.

“A Globe investigation found that these workers, eager for a paycheck, are often paid below the prevailing wage and illegally, in cash. They are also the most likely to be subjected to unsafe work conditions, without insurance to cover medical bills or lost pay if they get hurt. And the unscrupulous contractors who employ them are too seldom caught and penalized.
“This is not about catching a few bad actors that are dragging down the industry,’’ said Diego Low, director of the Metrowest Worker Center in Framingham, which helps workers fight for fair wages and safety. “We’ve evolved a system for providing subsidized labor to build our houses, and it’s based on the vulnerability of the workforce.”

The report notes that in Massachusetts over the last three years, federal officials logged 910 “willful or repeat violations” involving hospitalizations or deaths, but that the real number of injured workers is likely much higher. This is a population that often doesn’t have command of the language and is generally unaware of labor laws. Those who are undocumeted feel powerless to bring complaints or are fearful about seeking help from hospitals or authorities.

The article cites numerous cases of primarily young, male workers, many who speak limited or no English, who are characterized as independent contractors. It paints a portrait of a disposable population that is abandoned after injuries and left to fend for themselves to find medical care. It’s a deplorable tale, one that has been playing out across the country for years. A common theme is the layer after layer of contractors and subcontractors, making it difficult to assign responsibility. For a number of years now, state authorities have tried to enact measures to restrict abuse of the “independent contractor” designation, but it’s a pervasive problem still.

This underground economy is not just exploiting workers, it’s also grossly unfair competition to legitimate employers who operate honestly, pay insurance, pay taxes, and pay fair prevailing wages.

Related by Tom Lynch: Undocumented Immigrants In The Workers Comp Bullseye?

Health Wonk Review’s Spring Training edition & assorted news items

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Health Wonk Review – What do baseball and healthcare have in common? Find out – Glenn Laffel of Pizaazz hosts a fresh helping of the best of the health policy blogosphere: Health Wonk Review: Spring Training Edition
Does an anti-immigrant climate affect workers comp costs? – At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros discusses a recent news story in which Tom Hensley, president of Fieldale Farms Corp, testifies before the Georgia General Assembly about the detrimental impact that anti-immigration measures are having on his business. The impact included higher turnover and higher workers comp costs. Roberto is interested in hearing if anybody else has witnessed a similar trend of Latinos fleeing a state because of anti-immigrant sentiment and then claims trending upward – drop him anot if you have something to add.
Can you hear me now? Musicians and other workers who are exposed to loud music in their workplace are typically given short shrift in the occupational safety and health literature. Recent studies at nightclubs show that all employees (waiters, bartenders, DJs, etc,) were exposed to noise levels above internationally recommended limits and were at a higher risk of early hearing loss and tinnitus. The NIOSH Science Blog discusses music-induced hearing loss.
Giffords covered by work comp – Stephanie Innes of the Arizona Daily Star reports that federal workers’ comp is footing the recovery bill for Gabrielle Giffords and two of her employees who were shot in January. Because they were working, it’s an on-the-job injury. The federal law has no cap on medical payments, which is fortunate since the story reports that, “The Brain Injury Association of America says inpatient rehabilitation costs can range from $600 to $8,000 a day depending on services, and outpatient rehabilitation can cost $600 to $1,000 a day.”
Shrinking employer appetite for RTW? – Joe Paduda looks at how the economy may impact workers comp in 2012. Is higher severity in the offing? Joe talks about why that might be the case.
What makes a good claims organization? – At PropertyCasualty360, Carl Van, president and CEO of the International Insurance Institute, Inc., has posted the first in a three-part series on The Five Standards of Great Claims Organizations. See how your organization or your vendor stacks up.
Complex care – the folks at TMS continue to demonstrate that in complex care cases, the devil is in the details – and those details may be impeding an injured worker’s recovery and costing you money. See Pressure mapping: The underwear case for another example of how a small problem can become a big one.
Cool tool – Calculate your injury and illness incidence rates for your organization and compare them with national, state-specific, or industry-specific averages: Incidence rate calculator and comparison tool
Jobs of yesteryearPtak Science Books features a series of photos of Pennsylvania Coal Boys on the job in 1895 excerpted from an issue of Scientific American.
JapanHR Web Cafe has posted various resources, including options for donations. The interactive before and after satellite images are very dramatic, giving some sense of scope.

Health Wonk Review, Valentine’s week edition, and other news of note

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

When is healthcare like a box of chocolates? Find out over at Colorado Long Term Care Insider, where Louise & Jay Norris host an excellent Valentine’s Week Edition of Health Wonk Review.
Other news of note:
Tasers & cop claims – Roberto Ceniceros of Comp Time has an interesting post on how taser use by police is reducing injury rates and comp claims because it provides a low-impact way to subdue suspects. But tasers are also used on cops-in-training, sometimes resulting in serious injuries.
The straight dope – Joe Paduda has a do-not-miss post on narcotic opioids in workers comp and Cephalon’s role, in which he discusses how drugs like Fentora & Actiq, which are FDA approved only for cancer patients, are being promoted to workers comp patients. (One court ruling stated, “data suggested that more than 80% of patients using Actiq did not have cancer,” and “oncologists accounted for only 1% of Actiq prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies in the U.S.”) Cost is a huge issue, but Joe points out that it is not all about the money: Actiq has been linked to dozens of deaths from overdose.
Medical marijuana – Last week, Michigan court rulings dealt a double blow to medical marijuana. One of the Michigan rulings upheld the firing of a Walmart employee who had been proscribed the drug to control symptoms of his brain cancer, a case we posted about last year: Walmart: Shopping for Souls in Aisle Three. (Also see our recent post: Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: Dude, Lock Me Out!.)
Insurer market share – Cyril Tuohy of Risk & Insurance offers a short journey through the latest insurance industry statistics, including some great stats about market share: This Just in: Known and Lesser Known Facts About the Industry
Not something you see every dayCompNewsNetwork informs us that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has recently snagged a record $830,000 in restitution from a prior fraud conviction. The case was truly egregious – an anesthesiologist who bilked the system for $60 million in fraudulent claims – while contributing to at least two deaths in the process. Dr. Jorge Martinez was sentenced to life in prison for “the first known conviction involving a criminal charge of health care fraud resulting in death after the overdose of two patients seeking treatment for work related injuries.”
Illegal immigrant update – Peter Rousmaniere’s Working Immigrants blog is your in-the-know source for tracking the latest issues and stats on the topic. Via the Pew Hispanic Center, he informs us that the 2010 illegal population in 2010 remains about the same as in 2009: about 11.2 million, of which 8 million are in the workforce, and 58% of which are Mexicans. See more detail: Estimate of illegal immigrant population in 2010.
Good WC bookmark – We are adding WorkCompWire as a bookmark in our sidebar and you should keep it handy too. It’s a good source of news and opinion – check it out!
Savings on complex care – Yvonne Guilbert points out that overlooking simple facts can add significant costs to a claim very quickly. She asks carriers what they are missing on complex claims that might be costing them money.
Market pulse – At PropertyCasualty360, Caroline McDonald talks about why buyers shouldn’t get too comfortable with low workers comp rates. One of the primary sources for the article is our friend Mark Walls of Safety National – who is also well know as the founder of LinkedIn’s Work Comp Analysis Group.
Diversity – Jared wade posts that 18 insurance firms are among the best companies for LGBT employees to work for – “scoring a perfect 100% as a Best Place to Work for their ‘support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees,’ according to HRC.”
Distracted driving in NY – A sign of things to come? In New York, drivers will get two points for talking on hand-held cell phones. A two-point penalty has already been in place for texting while driving. At that rate, auto insurance sure could get expensive quickly for compulsive phone-o-philes.
Mental health – CCOHS, the Canadian counterpart of OSHA, makes the case for why employers should care about mental health at work.

Arizona Gets It Right

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Arizona has been getting a lot of criticism lately. Frustrated by the federal government’s inability to confront the undocumented worker problem, they took matters into their own hands and passed their own law. Now police are required to stop anyone who “looks illegal” and ask for papers. I’m not sure that illegal immigrants from Ireland have much to worry about, but Hispanics – who make up one third of the state’s population – had better be careful. The Arizona legislature missed an opportunity by not requiring Hispanics to wear their documents in a packet around their necks. Perhaps they can amend the law.
I have been on board with the need to deal with illegal immigration. Back in 2006 I strongly endorsed the congressional initiative to build a wall at the Mexican border. This new version of the “Great Wall” offered an tremendous opportunity to ineffectively seal the border, build a tourist attraction/theme park and temporarily employ thousands of undocumented workers until the project was finished, at which point we would escort the workers through the wall back to Mexico.
Some people feel that Arizona has created a law that penalizes people simply for looking Hispanic. Others believe that only the federal government has the power to deal with immigration issues. As we await the legal challenges that may or may not resolve the issue, we need to shift gears and recognize an area where the maligned state has actually gotten it right.
Public Versus Private
I am referring, of course, to the decision to privatize the state fund for workers comp insurance. Arizona has provided insurance since 1925 through the State Compensation Fund (SCF). With 40 thousand employers and $191.8 million in premiums, SCF is the largest workers’ compensation carrier operating in the state, with a 31.5 percent market share.
One of its subsidiaries, SCF Premier Insurance Co., is the second-largest, with $34.1 million in 2009 direct premiums written. Another subsidiary, SCF Western Insurance Co., is the 10th-largest, with $10.7 million in 2009 direct premiums written. In other words, SCF is by far the dominant player in the insurance market for comp.
Under the recently signed law, SCF will become a mutual fund in 2013. This move should open the door for more carriers to do business in Arizona, which will join the vast majority of states in operating a private insurance system for workers comp. I find it encouraging that in this area, at least, the goal is not to make the rest of us “Arizonians,” but to have Arizona join the mainstream of American culture. Bienvenida, las damas y caballeros!

Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news briefs

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Rich Elmore has posted a most excellent Health Wonk Review: Special Edition on Health Care Reform, which might also be called the “when pigs fly” edition. It has a good roundup of the health policy blogosphere’s reaction to the landmark legislation and a handy, must-see one page info-graphic of the time line.
Prevention in Health Reform – at the NIOSH Science Blog, John Howard, the Director of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, summarizes prevention provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and their implications for workplace safety and health.
Frequency – At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros looks at the way that health care reform might impact workers comp claim frequency. He explains that the data in this area is thin, but elicits some educated opinions on the topic.
More grim news from China – In addition to the increasingly desperate search for 153 miners which we discussed earlier this week, Ken Ward reports that in a different China mine, 12 miners have been killed and another 32 are missing.
Lifesaver – HR Daily Advisor tells us that survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are only about 5% due to the length of time it takes to get treatment to the victim. The sooner defibrillation is started, the more likely the victim will survive. A recent series of posts discuss the benefits of adding an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as part of a corporate wellness program. “OSHA says that immediate use of an AED can result in a 90 percent survival rate. With each minute of delay, however, nearly 10 percent fewer survive.” A follow-up post discusses related legal and training issues
Food processing – At The Pump Handle, Carlos Rich makes the case for food processing companies to treat workers more like humans and less like machines. We agree. Meatpacking and poultry processing plants are some of the most notorious environments for safety today. Many also play fast and loose with employment laws.
New blog finds

  • Fair Warning – “…an online nonprofit publication that seeks to provide robust, public interest journalism on issues of health, safety and corporate conduct.” The publication promises investigative journalism, legal and regulatory news, and reports from think tanks, academics, and advocacy groups.
  • Work Safety Blog from Blog4Safety – bills itself as “Your online resource for safety information, safety tips, and safety compliance.” It’s not a new blog, posts go back to 2008, but it is a new discovery for us. The blog is sponsored by The blog content has been provided by Texas America Safety Company (T.a.s.c.o.).

9/11 suit back to bargaining table – Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein surprised a lot of people when he rejected the proposed $575+ million settlement for 9/11 first responders. His complaints? The settlement paid to victims was too little. Read more from 9/11 Lawyers Return to Bargaining Table to Refine Settlement.
Quick Takes

Another Turkey in Ohio

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The state of Ohio has attained considerable notoriety for its workers comp program. Unfortunately, the fame derives from a scandal, dubbed Coingate, in which high level officials were implicated in the diversion and theft of comp funds. There are a number of political operatives spending this Thanksgiving in jail. Now we read of a state senator who has proposed legislation to explicitly exclude undocumented workers from the Ohio comp system. It appears that one bad turn in Ohio deserves another.
We all recognize the ambiguous state of undocumented workers in the American workforce. But virtually all states – with the exception of sparsely populated Wyoming – have provided comp coverage to illegal workers once they are injured. It’s a matter of common sense and fundamental decency: we may question how these workers came here, but once hired and in the workforce, they must be afforded the same protections given to other workers. Otherwise, we create a second-class workforce subject to exploitation and substandard working conditions – not exactly the American way.
Turkey of a Bill
Enter one Bill Seitz, a state senator who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati and from the University of Cincinnati School of Law, where he was Law Review and Order of the Coif. I have no idea what “Order of the Coif” is, but you can see Bill having a reasonably good hair day here.
Seitz says he was shocked to learn that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Comp does not require injured workers to document their status before receiving benefits. (Why is he shocked? No state has any such requirement.)
According the AP:

Seitz’s bill would place the burden of proof on the injured worker to demonstrate he or she is a legal worker by showing documentation such as a birth certificate or a visa. It would establish immunity from civil lawsuits for businesses in cases in which their workers’ claims are denied by the bureau because the worker is illegal, except in cases in which the business knew the worker was illegal or if it intentionally hurt the worker.

I particulary like the immunity from civil suits. This bill would not just eliminate the “exclusive remedy” of comp – it would strip away any remedy for injured, undocumented workers. It’s an invitation to employers to actively recruit illegal workers: they won’t be held responsible for hiring them, they won’t have any responsibility for workplace injuries that occur and they can avoid other forms of liability, provided, of course, that they did not “intentionally hurt” the worker. Seitz has stacked the deck against an already vulnerable population.
David Leopold, a Cleveland attorney and president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, thinks Seitz is engaged in a publicity stunt. “It seems to me to be a waste of time to even be talking about this. Beyond being cruel, it’s senseless because it’s not going to address the problem. If he has no statistics to back this up, he hasn’t shown a problem exists.”
As all of us gather for this most generous of our holidays, let’s give thanks for our many blessings. Let’s say a prayer for all of the families – native born, immigrant, legal and undocumented – struggling to make ends meet in this most difficult of times. And let’s hope that the good people of Ohio focus on fixing the real problems in their comp system, not the imaginary ones that trouble the waking hours of the well-dressed, well-coifed Mr. Seitz.

Hot off the press: Health Wonk Review; other news notes

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Louise Norris has posted a very simpsons-esque edition of Health Wonk Review at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. Of course, commentary on the Affordable Health Care for America Act is front and center. This issue is also packed with such diverse topics as limericks and Japanese organized crime bosses. Thanks to Louise for compiling a great edition.
Other news notes
Toxic moldIs workplace mold compensable? Roberto Ceniceros notes that this was a big topic in workers comp circles a few years back, with many predicting it would be the new asbestos. In his blog posts, he looks at a pair of recent court cases dealing with mold claims.
Swine flu – The New York Times reports that the CDC will soon be releasing updated fatality counts for the H1N1 virus, with the new number closer to 4,000 deaths since April rather than the 1,200 previously estimated. While this number is still low in comparison to the 36,000 killed by seasonal flu each year, over 90 percent of seasonal flu victims are over 65 and in most cases have other health problems so it will be interesting to learn the demographics with swine flu. The new figures are expected to be released next week.
Veterans – Just a few followups to Veteran’s day. Consumer Insurance Blog posted a comprehensive rundown of Insurance issues for U.S. military service members & their families. And on another note, we call your attention to one of the most heartwarming and sob-inducing posts we’ve seen in awhile – a compilation of video clips of dogs welcoming home soldiers. Is it any wonder that dogs are now playing a big role in helping vets deal with PTSD?
Smart Pills – Jacob Goldstein of the WSJ Health Blog posts about a new technology that can detect if you forget to take one of your important medications and send you a text reminder – based on a microchip implanted in the pill. Exciting health innovation or brave new world? Katherine Van Tassel of HealthLawProfBlog wonders just who will be keeping track of this information?
Immigration – Peter Rousmaniere posts Important 2008 statistics about immigration. Also, don’t miss his recent post on recent ICE estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Human trafficking is just another way of saying “slavery”- unlike illegal immigrants, there is nothing voluntary about their presence here – these are people who are abducted from homes or deceived with false promises.
Compensability – Man plays volleyball at work and is injured. Is his injury compensable? Check it out at SafetynewsAlert.

Health Wonk Review and other news from the blogosphere

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Health Wonk Review – Bob Laszewski hosts this weeks edition of the best healthcare posts on the Web! – check out this week’s Health Wonk Review.
Pharma – Joe Paduda discusses a planned FDA ban on certain medications which is likely to take a high toll on workers’ comp since they are “old stand-bys, drugs that have long been used to manage chronic and acute pain.” Joe notes: “The loss of these drugs will certainly drive up costs, may lead to adverse events as patients try other medications to replace their now-banned drugs, and may make it harder for patients to get medications.”
Ergonomics – A few ergonomics resources:
Call Center ergonomics: sit-to-stand work stations – if you have workers who spend the better part of their day on the phone or before a computer screen, sit-to-stand works stations might help to minimize repetitive stress injuries.
Exercises that protect against carpal tunnel syndrome – a four and a half minute video with tips from percussionist David Kuckhermann.
Thanks to Ergonmics in the News for the two links above – a great source for the latest news on the topic.
Work violenceHR Daily Advisor recently ran a pair of posts addressing workplace violence prevention. The posts are authored by Dennis A Davis, Ph.D., who notes that, “Because most people follow the rules, and because most violent people give ample signs before they act, employers can be successful at preventing workplace violence.” He offers six key steps for prevention. The first post is Workplace Violence Is Not Beyond Your Control and the second is Are Your Greeters Ready to Deal With a Violent Visitor.
Illegal immigrants – Peter Rousmaniere summarizes and links to A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States, the latest Pew Hispanic Center report on illegal immigrants.

Fancy Pants and Broken Lives

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The Sunday Times had an article about tough times in Palm Beach, where the super-wealthy reside. They like to shop at Trillion, a store that kind of indicates, by the name, that if you have to ask how much something costs you don’t belong in the store. The last time Bernie Madoff was in Trillion, he fell hard for a $2,000 pair of worsted spun cashmere pants, which Trillion didn’t have in his size. So Trillion ordered the pants from Italy. They arrived, alas, after Madoff had been busted. I don’t think he’ll be needing the pants where he currently resides. His new outfits – undoubtedly lacking that fine cashmere “hand” – are provided free of charge by the state of New York.
But this is not a posting about Bernie. The subject is one Victor Leon, a 26 year old illegal immigrant who fell off a roof three years ago. He was paralyzed and now lives in constant pain. He’s run up about half a million in medical expenses at St. Mary’s Medical Center, with the prospect of further surgery to come. You might expect that workers comp will reimburse St. Mary’s, but that is unlikely to happen. The hospital, like Leon, is on its own.
What about Comp?
In most states, despite his illegal status, Leon would be covered by workers comp, up to but probably not including the voc rehab he clearly needs. Coverage is apparently not a given in the Sunshine state. A post-injury urinalysis run at the hospital found traces of cocaine and marijuana in Leon’s blood. His employer, Altec, believes that the failed drug test, combined with Leon’s undocumented status, are grounds for denying his claim. Leon’s lawyer, supported by a toxicologist, asserts that the test does not prove that Leon was impaired at the time of the incident. Leon admits to taking “about four puffs” the night before, but he had a good night’s sleep (alas, the last of his life) and was fully alert the next morning at work.
OK. If comp does not apply, Leon can sue his employer, right? Well he tried, but failed there, too. A civil court judge ruled that Altec owed Leon nothing, because they carried workers comp for their employees…Which takes up back to Leon’s comp claim, which was, of course, denied. Leon is caught up in a rather ferocious version of Catch 22.
Leon’s life is ruined, not because of greed or malice (sit still, Bernie!). He lied in order to get work. He performed his job to the best of his ability. He was seriously injured through an unfortunate miscommunication with a co-worker. While he has benefitted from good medical care, he is penniless and now homeless. He would return to Mexico, but if he does, all hope of winning his legal case would be lost.
So there you have it: A tale of two broken lives in America. One man dreams of the $2,000 pants he almost got to wear and the other dreams of being able to pull on a pair of cheap jeans. There are probably some compelling lessons to be drawn from these parallel stories. I’ll leave it to our readers to figure out exactly what those lessons might be.