By Cindy Carcamo
9:00 AM EST, January 26, 2013
Under a bill introduced this week in Arizona, hospital staffs would be compelled to check whether uninsured patients are in the country illegally.
If the patients can't provide proof that they are in the country legally, hospital staff would have to call federal immigration officials or local law enforcement. The bill by state Rep. Steve Smith also would require hospital officials to file annual reports of how many people they treated who were in the country illegally.
Smith, a Republican from Maricopa, was not available for comment, but has said that H.B. 2293 is designed to track how many people who are in the country illegally receive free medical care in the state. The aim, he has said, is not to withhold care but to collect information.
Immigrant rights organizations say the bill is misguided, targets immigrants and essentially requires hospital workers to police immigration.
Officials with the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights called the bill “unconscionable,” saying it would hit immigrant women particularly hard and create a chilling effect on immigrants seeking critical and preventive care for themselves and their families.
“This bill would legalize harassment of immigrants and, in fact, of any woman who looks like she could be an immigrant,” stated Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
Under the bill, citizens from other countries would have to prove that their nation participates in the visa waiver program recognized by the United States or provide a non-immigrant U.S. visa. Those who can prove Canadian citizenship would be exempt from having to show any sort of visa.