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This Article argues that sound public policy supports states providing vocational rehabilitation services to undocumented workers who have been injured in work-related accidents. Part I of the Article provides context by analyzing some of the complexities of undocumented immigrants’ lives in the United States. Part II discusses the history and economics of vocational rehabilitation programs established by workers’ compensation systems. Part III discusses ways in which immigration law and enforcement contribute to the formation of this shadow population. Part IV analyzes purported conflicts between vocational rehabilitation programs and the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1986 as they arose in Tarango v. State Industrial Commission, a Nevada case that denied an undocumented worker access to those services. Part V examines preemption of state law by IRCA, concluding that IRCA does not preempt the most crucial parts of those statutes. Part VI explores the constitutional issues that can arise when states act to deny undocumented workers access to those services, suggesting that such denial may be unconstitutional. Part VI also explores exceptions to deferential rational basis review, the continued viability of those exceptions, and application of the exceptions to this issue. Part VII briefly discusses the Supreme Court’s decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, and argues that Hoffman should not result in denial of those services.

Publication Citation

81 Denv. U. L. Rev. 347 (2003).