Arizona, which passed a controversial immigration bill last year, is again debating measures to discourage undocumented immigrants from living in the state.
A series of new bills, championed by Republican Senate President Russell Pearce, would make it illegal for such people to drive in Arizona. It would also require businesses to use the federal system called E-Verify to check the immigration status of potential employees. In addition, schools would be required to contact federal immigration officials if students can’t provide proof of legal status. One bill would also attempt to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the Arizona to illegal immigrants.
Another would take the immigration battle all the way into the emergency room. If passed, the measure would require hospital personnel to verify immigration status of each person before they are admitted. If a person could not prove he or she was in the country legally, the hospital would be required to report that to federal immigration officials. If the person needed emergency care, the hospital would still be required to provide it under the rules spelled out in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which makes it illegal to deny care to anyone on the basis of his or her ability to pay.
According to the Arizona Republic, this last proposal has the state’s health care workforce worried. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators could be on the hook legally if they did not check immigration status and report those who appeared to be undocumented. Some are also concerned that Medicaid funding – partially paid by the state – could be withheld from providers and facilities that don’t check immigration status and report offenders. This “compliance burden” could tax already swamped medical workers. There are also concerns about the threat to public health if illegal immigrants with communicable diseases stay away from emergency rooms for fear of being deported.
All of these measures are far from becoming law and have only passed through one legislative committee. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has not yet weighed in and the full Arizona Senate and House have not yet voted on the proposed bills. Even if they did pass, some could also, as with last year’s Arizona immigration bill, face constitutional challenges. Several Republicans on the committee that approved the new immigration bills voted against them. There is a lot of resistance in Arizona to enacting more controversial immigration measures, due to the effect they could have on the state economy. Last year’s law prompted some to call for boycotts.