Target: Arizona legislature
Goal: Don’t require hospitals to call law enforcement if a patient cannot prove legal status in the United States
Under a bill introduced recently in Arizona, hospital staffs would be forced to check if uninsured patients are in the country illegally. If the patients cannot provide proof that they have legal status, the hospitals would then be required to call federal immigration officials or local law enforcement. The bill, drafted by Representative Steve Smith, also aims to require hospitals to submit annual reports of how many patients they treated were in the country without proper documents.
Smith, a Republican, claims the goal of H.B. 2293 is “not to withhold care but to collect information.”
“That’s it, we don’t deny anybody, they don’t come in and not get treated, everything stays the same, we just want it documented,” said Smith.”How much money does Arizona spend for illegal aliens? The answer is really simple, we have no clue,” said Smith.
Immigrant rights organizations say the bill is misguided, targets immigrants and essentially requires hospital workers to police immigration. Officials with the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights called the bill “unconscionable,” noting that immigrant women would bear the brunt of its effects, as they are often the ones deciding whether or not to seek healthcare for themselves and their families.
“This bill would legalize harassment of immigrants and, in fact, of any woman who looks like she could be an immigrant,” stated Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
Under the bill, citizens from other countries would have to prove that their nation participates in the visa waiver program recognized by the United States or provide a non-immigrant U.S. visa. Those who can prove Canadian citizenship would be exempt from having to show any sort of visa.
“Our state legislator really needs to be focused on creating a climate that creates good business opportunities so we can attract new businesses here, we need to be focused on shoring up education as well,” said Lisa Urias, co-founder of ‘ The Real Arizona Coalition’ which aims to educate Arizonans about immigration related issues and reform. ”They’re not designed for law enforcement, hospitals are designed for healthcare,” said Urias.
Urge Arizona not to pass H.B. 2293 and work toward more humane solutions to healthcare and immigration issues.
Dear Arizona Legislature,
We recognize that the nation faces a serious crisis when it comes to our healthcare system. However, there are more effective ways to approach that crisis than to intimidate immigrants and people who do not have health insurance. A hospital’s function is to care for the sick, not to serve as a proxy institution for immigration law enforcement. We also recognize that illegal immigration is a problem in this country, but both political parties have made comprehensive reform a legislative priority, and this bill does nothing to contribute to such reform.
Most undocumented immigrants already live life in the shadows, and this bill will only further discourage people from seeking treatment or relying on institutions when they most need help. This bill could have devastating effects on children as well, whose parents might be too frightened to take their kids to the hospital for fear of deportation. Representative Smith says that treatment would not be “withheld,” but the threat of exposure means that people will not seek help, and treatment essentially will be withheld. Additionally, interrogating hospital patients about their immigration status is an infringement of privacy and harassment, even for those who are in the country legally.
Arizona has a legacy of being unfriendly toward the immigrant community. As seen in the 2012 election, most Americans do not support these kinds of policies. Please work to try and pass legislation that honors America’s reputation as an immigrant nation that prides itself on diversity and equality. Instead of unfairly targeting undocumented immigrants by threatening to require proof of citizenship in order to seek medical care, participate meaningfully in the discussion to reform our immigration and healthcare systems.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: US Dept. of Transportation