"Papers, please" at the doctor's office?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Jan. 25, 2013
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - You rush to the emergency room and the doctor tells you, "Papers, please"? If a group of Arizona state lawmakers have their way, hospitals here will have to ask certain patients to prove they're here legally. If patients can't, staff would have to call the cops.
Under the proposed state law, if an uninsured patient goes to a hospital, staff would need to try to verify that patient’s immigration status. If workers cannot, they’d be compelled to call federal immigration enforcers or local law enforcement.
The one-page proposal does not include any instructions to deny a patient care.
Four Republican introduced House Bill 2293: Reps. Adam Kwasman, Carl Seel, Steve Smith and Bob Thorpe. Each told KGUN9 News they were unavailable to talk Friday.
Rep. Smith spoke with the ABC 15 in Phoenix Thursday.
“It's a data collection bill,” he said in front of the Capitol.
Smith explained his objective is to track how much money hospitals spend helping undocumented immigrants.
“How much money does Arizona spend for illegal aliens per year?” he said. “The answer is really simple: we have no clue”
The bill would require hospitals to keep a tally and report to the state every year.
“We don't understand the overwhelming need or desire or benefit to collect that data,” said Pete Wertheim, vice president of strategic communications for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
The association represents hospitals across the state, including Tucson, and “strongly opposes” HB 2293.
“It's going to delay care for everybody involved in that hospital,” he said over the phone, referring to all patients. “It's adding an additional step that while some might perceive to be a short and not an onerous one, it's quite the contrary. Immigration review and citizenship verification is not something like just as easy as checking a driver's license.”
“I think it is a draconian bill,” said Dr. Norma Price, representing the humanitarian groups No More Deaths and Samaritans. “It's even worse when I read it in detail.”
“I think the whole bill comes from a position of hate,” Price said. “It divides the community. It vilifies a segment of the community and puts them in fear and they are less safe.”
Price argued undocumented immigrants -- fearing deportation -- won't seek health care when they truly need it. Wertheim shared that public health concern.
Both also believed the proposal shifts immigration enforcement.
“That's turning the hospital into an agent of the government and that's wrong,” Price said.
"Asking hospitals to become a law enforcement agency is a problem," added Wertheim.
“They're not withholding care. They're not deporting. They're not throwing out,” Smith said. “They're not doing anything. We're just logging information.”
The bill is in early stages of possibly becoming a law. The sponsors introduced it. Now it needs to be assigned to a committee.
Yay or nay? What do you think of the controversial proposal? Join the conversation on the KGUN9 Facebook page.