Wednesday, December 11, 2013

U.S. citizen born in Mexico sues state prisons over job rejection

The Los Angeles Times reports in a lawsuit that illustrates some of the challenges faced by young people who are able to regularize their immigration status.  

Two years ago, Victor Guerrero applied for a job as a prison guard with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The background check asked whether the applicant had ever used a Social Security number "other than the one you used on this questionnaire.” Guerrero, who was born in Mexico and came to the United States at age 11, disclosed that, at age 15, he took a job in a restaurant using a Social Security number that didn't belong to him. Guerrero used it until he became a legal permanent resident of the United States in 2007. He became a citizen in 2010.

Guerrero was denied the job. In a letter, the corrections department said his use of another person's SSN “shows a lack of honesty, integrity, and good judgment.” Guerrero applied for the job again this year and was denied again.

On Monday, Guerrero filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the State Personnel Board. He claims the prison system's policy violates fair employment laws and unfairly hurts Latino job applicants.

Immigrant rights activists say the case could have implications for a wide variety of workers, especially young, undocumented immigrants who are eligible for a federal program that lets them stay in the country for at least two years and work legally. Krsna Avila, legal services manager for Educators for Fair Consideration, an organization that helps undocumented immigrant youths access education and apply for citizenship, said denying Guerrero a job as a prison guard sets a bad precedent.

Guerrero's attorney, Marsha Chien, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, said her organization decided to take up Guerrero's case because it frequently hears from previously undocumented immigrants who have achieved lawful status but who are afraid to the tell their employers for fear of retribution.


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