Ariz. bill links hospitals, immigration
By: Scott Wong
February 15, 2011 09:46 AM EST
Republican state lawmakers in Arizona are opening a new front in their fight against illegal immigration, proposing a bill that would require hospitals to check whether a patient is in the country illegally.
The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, has come under fire from doctors and others in the medical industry who fear the measure would deter some immigrants from seeking care.
“This is making us into a police state that will try to catch people when they are sick,” George Pauk, a retired doctor with Physicians for a National Health Program, told the Associated Press. “Do we want to stop sick people from coming in for health care?”
Democrats said the legislation would essentially turn hospital workers into immigration agents.
“The bill placed burden on hospitals to act as immigration agents,” state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat, wrote on Facebook. “Let them do their work!”Supporters, including state Senate President Russell Pearce, say the bill provides an important tool to fight illegal immigration, especially with hospitals spending millions of dollars treating patients who are in the country illegally.
“We’re going to enforce our laws without apology,” Pearce, a Mesa Republican, told AP.
Pearce sponsored Arizona’s tough immigration law last year that sparked a national debate over illegal immigration — as well as a legal standoff with the Obama administration. The Justice Department sued Arizona, claiming the law was unconstitutional, and the case is tied up in the federal courts. Arizona filed a counter-suit last week, saying the federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 1405, would require hospitals, during non-emergency cases, to confirm that a person seeking medical care is a U.S. citizen or in the country legally.
The bill was yanked from the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda on Monday because it did not have the votes to pass. But backers said they would consider the bill in other committees.
© 2011 Capitol News Company, LLC
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