Republican lawmakers in Arizona have proposed a bill that would serve as a kind of follow-up to the controversial immigration law Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into law last year. The bill would require hospitals to check the immigration status of each patient.
SB 1405 states: “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.” If the hospital determines that a patient is not in the country legally, it must notify federal immigration officials. If someone determined to be an non-legal resident comes in for emergency care, the hospital must contact federal officials after “successful treatment of the patient.”
The bill was scheduled for debate on Monday in the state Senate Judiciary Committee, but the debate was put on hold late in the day, according to the Associated Press.
State Senate President Russell Pearce (R), who sponsored last year’s immigration law and is one of the sponsors of the hospital bill, appeared on Fox News this morning to defend the measure.
“The federal law requires us to take emergencies and stabilize them, nobody is going to turn those folks down, we all agree with that,” Pearce said. “But I get calls from doctors and nurses every day that work in the emergency rooms, talking about the abuse. The millions of dollars spent for folks who come in for pregnancy tests, sniffles. They use emergency room services as their primary care physician. When do we stand up for the taxpayers? There’s a cost to this. The cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Dr. George Pauk, with a group called Physicians for a National Health Program, appeared on Fox News opposite Pearce, to argue against the bill. Pauk said that the bill would criminalize the actions of hospitals, doctors, nurses and health care workers.
“It’s objected to by health professionals all across this county,” Pauk said. “It’s a challenge or a disaster for the medical and nursing ethics, and it’s immoral. We need to take care of people no matter who they are.”
Pauk also made the case that people with communicable diseases would avoid going to hospitals for fear of their immigration status coming up, “and be out there, affecting us.”
Pearce countered that the bill would eliminate health care as an “inducement” for illegal immigration.
“There is no criminalization,” Pearce said. “He overstated it. It’s absolutely outrageous that he makes those kinds of statements. Nobody is criminalizing it. It’s already a criminal act to aid, abet, harbor illegal aliens in this country. It’s a federal felony. All we want to do is stop the inducement. Quit inviting people over the border. While we give them free stuff, they come here and get free medical. I have to pay for my insurance, they walk in, because they’re illegal they get free care, they use the emergency room as the primary care physician. We’re saying enough is enough.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com