Penn Law School, ACLU and National Employment Law Project Urge Protection for Undocumented Workers

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | jleong@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-573-8151November 1, 2006

Penn Law School, ACLU and National Employment Law Project Urge Protection for Undocumented Workers

Nov. 1, 2006

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania Law Schools Transnational Legal Clinic, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Employment Law Project, are urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to find the United States in violation of human rights obligations.  

The groups have filed a petition claiming that the U.S. has failed to protect undocumented workers from exploitation and discrimination in the workplace and that employment and labor protections under state laws, including entitlement to hold an employer responsible for a workplace injury, have not been applied to undocumented workers.  

About 5 percent of the U.S. labor force, approximately 6 million people, are undocumented workers.

"Until the law recognizes workers human rights, providing equal rights and remedies to all without regard for immigration status, we will continue to see unscrupulous employers recruiting and exploiting undocumented workers, to the detriment of the health, safety and dignity of all workers," said Sarah Paoletti, clinical supervisor of the Transnational Legal Clinic.

Penn Law students are getting real legal experience in filing this petition.

"It has been both shocking and enlightening to observe first-hand the many traumas and abuses that undocumented workers endure," said Christine Chuang, a Penn Law student.

"Hopefully this petition will be the first step  to ensure that vulnerable workers have their rights protected, Alasdair Henderson," another Penn Law student.  

The petition charges that the U.S. government is responsible for violations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas and New York.  The petition was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of five petitioners across the country, the United Mine Workers of America, the AFL-CIO, Interfaith Worker Justice and the Chinese Staff and Workers Association.