Arizona Seeks to Force Hospitals Into Immigration Fight

Michael Santo's picture

Although a prior state law passed last year, one which required local police, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally has been put on hold, that isn't stopping Arizona from attempting to expand the coverage of such laws.

The latest such bill introduced in Arizona, Senate Bill 1405, would require hospitals, for non-emergency cases, to confirm whether or not a person seeking medical care is a U.S. citizen or in the country legally. The prior law, SB1070, is tied up in federal courts, with the Obama Administration suing, stating the law was unconstitutional. Arizona sued back last week, claiming the federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws.

Doctors and the medical industry criticized the bill on Monday as it was scheduled for a hearing by the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee. Doctors cited examples and scenarios in which immigrants carrying contagious diseases such as tuberculosis would eschew medical care, putting the public at risk.

George Pauk, a retired doctor with an organization called Physicians for a National Health Program, which supports Universal Health Care, said, "This is making us into a police state that will try to catch people when they are sick. Do we want to stop sick people from coming in for health care?"

In the case of emergency care, hospitals would be required to call INS agents after treating the patient. If the case is not an emergency, the hospital would still face that requirement, but could decide on its own if it should treat the patient, at all.

On Facebook, state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat, said, “The bill placed burden on hospitals to act as immigration agents. Let them do their work!”

However, state Senate President Russell Pearce, who was a key supporter of SB 1070, said, "It's the law. It's a felony to (aid and) abet. We're going to enforce the law without apology."

The bill was pulled from the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda on Monday as it did not have enough votes to pass. However, supporters of SB 1405 said they would consider introducing the bill in other committees.

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