Arizona Bill Would Require Hospitals to Check Patient Immigration Status

by Cara on February 15, 2011

in bigotry, discrimination, human rights, immigration, law enforcement, legislation, patriarchy, race and racism, violence against women and girls, women’s health

Arizona legislators are working on a new anti-immigration bill that is essentially the hospital equivalent of their notorious SB 1070. The new bill, SB 1405, would require all hospitals within the state to verify the immigration status of all patients. If a patient cannot prove that sie is in the country legally, hospital staff would be required by law to contact immigration officials.

A new bill making its way through Arizona’s state legislature is drawing a lot of attention. It’s Senate Bill 1405. Some call it the hospital version of SB 1070.

Anyone who has spent a day at Maricopa County Medical Center knows people from all walks of life are wheeled through the halls.

But if a new piece of legislation passes, some of those patients will be wheeled from the emergency room to immigration officials.

If SB 1405 passes, hospitals would be required to check a patient’s citizenship status after administering any emergency medical care.

If the person isn’t in the United States legally, the law would require they be turned over to immigration officials.

Yes, this bill is real. It can be read in full on the Arizona State Legislature’s website, and view the official fact sheet.

Now, the bill itself does not actually require that hospitals refuse treatment to those who are undocumented or cannot prove immigration status. SB 1405 doesn’t go quite that far — at least, in this draft.

But do not be at all mistaken — if passed, an inability to access medical care will be precisely what occurs all the same.

Already, some immigrants, terrified and terrorized by the very real raids and surveillances that are a daily threat to their communities, falsely believe that hospitals are required to check immigration status. As a result, they avoid medical treatment, even when it is dire. People have become very ill, risked their lives, been left with lifelong conditions that would have been treatable earlier, and undoubtedly died. Because there is a war to protect U.S. borders, and undocumented bodies have inevitably been declared its enemy.

If this bill is passed — and with the passage of SB 1070, it is most certainly more than a remote possibility — that situation will be multiplied many times over. People will forced to choose between the dangerousness of refusing medical care and hoping they survive and the dangerousness of interacting with institutions have declared their existence, their very selves to be “illegal.” As now with those who can’t afford care in the U.S. for-profit medical system, serious conditions will be nervously brushed off. Rape victims, victims of intimate partner violence, and women and trans* people who are having pregnancy complications will go without treatment. There will be no such thing as safety. Violence will become even more inescapable than it is now. And people will die.

People will die.

They will die, and this fact — this is not speculation, it is a simple cause and effect analysis, it is a fact — is neither a secret nor a mystery. And clearly, that’s at least part of the point. As KPHO Phoenix reports:

Those in favor of the bill said hospitals shouldn’t be treating people in the country illegally.

They don’t quote a proponent of the bill in support of this statement, but such people are not exactly difficult to find. They are everywhere, asking why should “they” (undocumented immigrants) get to use “our” (U.S.) schools, anyway? Clearly, children whose parents don’t have the right papers do not deserve an education, they do not need to read or add or write. They are seen asking why “they” should be allowed to use “our” police forces. Clearly, some of us deserve access to the institutions generally regarded as the primary means to keep communities safe, some of us deserve to report crimes against us, to not be assaulted and raped, and some of us do not. And they are indeed seen asking why “they” should be allowed to use “our” hospitals — there is a health care crisis already, so how dare they use up resources?

Clearly, some of us deserve to live and some of us deserve to die. Because that is what the ability to access health care comes down to. And those supporting this bill know it.

And then there is this:

Senate President Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican who was chief sponsor of last year’s immigration law, says the hospitals bill is part of a broader effort to crack down on illegal immigration. The hospitals bill wouldn’t bar people from getting care, but it would put the onus on hospitals to “do due diligence,” Pearce said. “We’re going to enforce our laws without apology.”

Added Pearce: “It’s the law. It’s a felony to (aid and) abet. We’re going to enforce the law without apology.”

This is what happens when we declare people “illegal,” when we start calling them by that slur publicly and officially. If they are illegal, their very lives are illegal. To protect the health and safety of those declared illegal, to afford them the very most basic human rights, to treat them as human beings, becomes a crime.

As ms. radically hott off writes:

How much more savage and vindictive can we be? what other mami will have to choose between the health of her children and a place to live/work? Do you know what that feels like? To see your sick child and know—I’m going to have to take her in? To *dread* getting help for your child? I feel like that all the time because of money—I can’t even imagine the added burden of knowing that you will lose everything because your child has a right to live and be healthy.

Those proposing and supporting this bill don’t even recognize that this right to live and be healthy exists for certain bodies, including those which belong to children. They certainly don’t mind putting it in extraordinary jeopardy.

The bill was originally scheduled to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, but was yanked at the last moment due to a lack of votes. The sponsors, however, have stated that they are considering other committees. We have most certainly not seen the last of SB 1405, and with numerous other states considering legislation similar to SB 1070, we are witnessing the mere beginning of a white supremacist resurgence in the U.S. In the general public consciousness, the bars for what constitutes either “extreme” or “racist” have both been raised. Progressives can only ignore efforts like these and assume they will just go away at the risk of people losing not only their homes and incomes and right to be near their families, but also their lives.

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{ 5 comments }

1 kj February 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I’m sorry sir but you’ll have to just continue bleeding all over the floor while I’m on hold with USCIS. Don’t worry, they said I’m number 246 in line and they’ll be with me shortly…

Arizona – The definition of Fail

2 Cara February 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Technically, the bill does state that patients’ immigration status should be checked prior to treatment only in non-emergency cases, with it being checked afterward in emergency cases.

That being said, no I do not think it is at all a stretch for hospitals with particular anxiety about compliance with the law to not follow those rules very well, or for doctors who are anti-immigrant to racially profile patients and make determinations on which cases truly count as “emergencies” on that basis. In addition to being a monumental state abuse, this bill would indeed also open up the door to outrageous abuses by doctors, as well.

3 Centerist Cynic February 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

My first question about this bill would be is this really the best use of expensive and limited medical personnel? Probablly not.

Second intimidating people so they don’t seek medical care is barbaric. Even legal immigrants would put off seeking medical care.

I’m always puzzled by people who act like illegal immigrants or undocumented workers are here not contributing anything to the US. They are here because people hire them and generally they hire them for less. Most of us benefits by these workers being paid less whether we know it or not. Because employers turn a blind eye, restaurants are cheaper, houses are cheaper, food is cheaper and the list could go on. It is unjust to look at illegal immigrants as a burden on the US without acknowledging this.

Punishing the employers is the only way to solve this issue. Punishing the people that are being exploited by limiting their access to health care is just sad.

4 Katrina February 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Do the people supporting this bill really think that getting rid of anyone will decrease taxes? Even if money wasn’t ‘wasted’ on a human life, the same taxes would be due. The government would just find a way to piss through the funds themselves. Political officals can get on their soap boxes and cry about immigrants sucking away tons of tax payer money all they want. Illegal immigration into the US is not the real reason people pay so much and get so little. The proof is the rest of the country. It’s not like border states are the only ones not getting what they want out of taxes.

Arizona has to stop using immigrants as a scapegoat and admit that taxes don’t go up while services go down due to internal problems. Not in the sense of politicians literally stealing money. Just the usual waste and mismanagement that the government, on all levels, is plagued with. As far as I’m concerned, all the focus on the border as a smoke screen for the real problems Arizona should make their main focus.

5 John February 20, 2011 at 2:11 am

When police arrest people for possession, they often try to determine who sold them the drugs. Undocumented people still need money. If it’s a felony to “aid and abet”, shouldn’t they be attempting to find out who the employers are? I understand that sometimes people are given immunity when their testemony leads to the conviction of a felon. Is this because many of the employers are caucasian?

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