PHOENIX — A state legislator is moving to put Arizona’s hospitals on the front line in the fight against illegal immigration.
But the measure also says if legal status cannot be verified, someone from the hospital “must immediately contact the local federal immigration office or a local law enforcement agency to report the incident.’’
The legislation is drawing alarm from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “When does this begin or end?’’ asked Pete Wertheim, the organization’s vice president of strategic communication.
“What other industry should be screening their customers for citizenship verification?’’
The hospital proposal is just part of what Smith wants the Legislature this session to enact to deal with illegal immigration.
A separate measure, HB 2289, would require the state Department of Education to collect data on how many of students are not in this country legally.
Federal law, at least as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires public schools to educate all children who live within each district, without charge, whether they are in this country legally or not.
And nothing in Smith’s plan would permit schools to turn away those who cannot provide citizenship proof. Instead, Smith said the legislation is aimed at gathering data on the financial burden that illegal immigrants put on schools — data he said could use to try to get reimbursement from the federal government.
But Dan Pochoda of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said even just asking for that information is illegal because it would deter families of illegal immigrant children from sending their youngsters to school.
Smith said he does not understand the opposition of the hospitals to HB 2293, saying he’s just asking them to do their civic duty.
“I would hope if you witnessed somebody who is not lawfully present in this country taking advantage of, getting, acquiring any benefit or social service or something that they’re not entitled to, or something they’re abusing or neglected, I would hope somebody would pick up the phone and go, ‘Maricopa police, Buckeye police, I think — I’m not sure — but I think this is happening,’ ‘’ he said.