Arizona Considering Requiring Hospitals to Verify Immigration Status

Last year, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed off on a stringent immigration law — SB-1070 — medical organizations and health care providers came out against it, citing the likelihood that it will discourage a large segment of the population from seeking health care. One doctor, Lucas Restrepo, M.D., even wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that health care providers who treat undocumented immigrants could be considered criminals due to a provision in the law that makes it illegal to “conceal, harbor or shield or attempt to conceal, harbor or shield” a person who is undocumented.

SB-1070 may have that effect, but it wasn’t directed at health care providers. A new law that will be considered today is. The Arizona state Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing on SB-1405, a bill that would require hospitals to check patients’ immigration status. More specifically, SB-1405 would require hospitals to conduct an immigration status check before admitting a patient for non-emergency care. If the person is in the country illegally, hospitals will be forced to report the patient to federal authorities. If a hospital chooses not to follow these requirements, it could be sued. The bill states:

A. Before a hospital admits a person for nonemergency care, a hospital admissions officer must confirm that the person is a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of the United States, or lawfully present in the United States. The admissions officer may use any method prescribed in Section 1-501 to verify citizenship or legal status.
B. If the admissions officer determines that the person does not meet the requirements of Subsection A of this section, the admissions officer must contact the local federal immigration office.
C. If the hospital provides emergency medical care pursuant to federal requirements to a person who does not meet the requirements of Subsection A of this section, on successful treatment of the patient the admissions officer must contact the local federal immigration office.
D. A hospital that complies with the requirements of this section is not subject to civil liability.

In his piece on SB-1070, Restrepo wrote, “Asking patients to produce immigration documents violates the trust that physicians, nurses, and other health care workers endeavor to earn from them.” He concluded that “This bill [SB-1070] threatens one of the oldest traditions of medicine: physicians shall protect patients regardless of nationality or race. This legislation, if unchallenged, will force health care providers to choose between the dignity of their profession and the indignity of violating the law.” Wonk Room previouslyreported that Dr. Winston Wong — Medical Director of community benefit at Kaiser Permanente — has gone as far as to argue that doctors have a professional obligation to oppose any measure that endangers the care of their patients and the public’s general health, including SB-1070.

Andrea NillMeanwhile, other health care providers have pointed out the practical problems associated with mixing immigration enforcement with medical care. According to experts, discouraging or denying treatment of undocumented immigrants could put everyone at risk and lead to a health crisis that affects large populations.

Andrea Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room

About Andrea Christina Nill

Andrea Nill is an Immigration Researcher/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org and The Progress Report at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Political Science with a concentration in Latin American Studies and Law and Society. Prior to joining the center, Andrea was a Communications Associate at the Immigration Policy Center where she founded the blog, Immigration Impact. Andrea was also a Communications Specialist at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), specializing in bilingual public relations. Andrea was born in Guatemala and grew up in upstate New York.

Comments

  1. He concluded that “This bill [SB-1070] threatens one of the oldest traditions of medicine: physicians shall protect patients regardless of nationality or race. This legislation, if unchallenged, will force health care providers to choose between the dignity of their profession and the indignity of violating the law.”

    Nonsense. Doctors aren’t being told not to treat people. They’re being told not to make the rest of us pay the bill for their decision to treat illegal aliens. If they care so much, they can always treat them for free. But they’re rather stick us with the bill and call it good progressive politics.

    The reason SB-1070 even exists is because the American public is tired of paying the bills for illegal aliens. If liberals really care about illegal aliens, start up a fund to pay for their food, housing, education, etc., etc. Because right now it’s being paid for through higher healthcare costs and taxes on the American public. Many Americans are starting to realize that not only do we lose good paying jobs to illegal aliens, we’re also stuck with paying for them and their “instant citizen” babies, while the employers who hire them rake in record profits.

    It’s time to end the theft of our resources. Go Arizona!

  2. Bill Gibbons says:

    The US should be deporting these vagrants, not trying to protect them. As for Arizona, the number of illegal immigrants involved in the drugs trade and violent crime is going through the roof.

    “Crime is off the chart in this state,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, president of the Arizona Association of Sheriffs.

    Critics have called Arizona officials racist, intolerant and downright unconstitutional for passing the law, which makes illegal immigration a state crime and allows police to demand documentation from anyone they suspect is an illegal immigrant. While the correlation between illegal immigrants and crime is almost impossible to quantify precisely, the available numbers indicate that Arizona — as well as California and Texas — are dealing with increased crime as a result of high illegal immigrant populations and activity.

    But there are other crimes, many of which are drug-related. Furthermore, illegal immigrants and smuggling organizations have been linked to some specific violent crimes in Arizona. Local officials frequently cite the rash of kidnappings in their state in defending the new law. The Department of Justice’s latest National Drug Threat Assessment says there were 267 kidnappings in Phoenix last year and 299 in 2008. The report said the victims usually have a connection to immigrant smuggling groups or drug traffickers. it is the activities of the criminals that have propmted Arizona’s immigration rules, which has nothing to do with racism.

  3. Indeed many people present in the USA without having a document to proof legal-permanent-residency or USA-citizenship, will be too scarred to get any preventive healthcare assistance.
    Starting with not getting the simple immunization-shots for babies. We could be in for out of control epidemics, effecting the UScitizen-population as well.

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  1. [...] those who definitely weren’t amused were Arizona doctors’ and nurses’ associations. Dr. Lucas Restrepo of Phoenix went as far as the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine to publish his [...]

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