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New York high court rules illegal immigrant can recover lost wages

[JURIST] The New York State Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-2 Tuesday that an illegal immigrant's status as an undocumented worker does not preclude his ability to recover lost earnings. Illegal immigrant Gorgonio Balbuena was injured at his workplace in 2000, and he sued his employer for lost wages. The trial court held in Balbuena's favor, a decision that was altered on appeal before coming before New York's highest court.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer [official profile; JURIST news archive] had officially supported Balbuena's position [AG opinion text], citing concerns that preventing such claims would make illegal aliens more attractive to employers, thus encouraging non-compliance with federal policy and state labor laws. The opinion reasoned that as there was no proof that Balbuena forged documents to gain the job, and that the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act [text] of 1986 "does not make it a crime to work without documentation." A dissenting judge wrote that he "would hold that such a recovery is barred by the rule of New York law that the courts will not aid in achieving the purpose of an illegal transaction." AP has more.

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