A group of doctors in town for their annual meeting held a press conference in front of the Arizona statehouse today to declare their opposition to anti-immigration legislation, particularly proposed bills mandating doctors ask their patients for immigration papers.
New York Doctor Christina Gonzalez emceed the event, declaring the group wanted to make it clear that they are "physicians who think the current immigration policies are wrong," and not just in a fuzzy liberal way.
Colorado Dr. Mark Earnest announced that a doctor's first job is to do no harm and argued that harsh immigration policies provoke immigrants to fear going to the doctor's office, which causes them to become sicker than they would if they went to a doctor immediately, creating worse symptoms and problems.
"We do harm when we erect barriers between people and their necessary care," he declared.
The doctors are part of the Society of General Internal Medicine and were in town for their annual conference at the Sheraton Hotel. Gonzalez spoke with New Times after the event, telling us the group gave serious consideration to boycotting the state but couldn't do so because of a contractual commitment to hold the conference at the Sheraton.
Instead, they decided to come to Arizona and make a point.
Jason Odhner, a nurse with the Phoenix Urban Health Collective, promised that physicians "will not comply with laws that conscript us into a de facto immigration army."
Several speakers, including Odhner, criticized local hospital St. Joseph's for attempting to deport a comatose man who allegedly was beaten half to death by Border Patrol agents, as New Times and sister publication LA Weekly have reported.
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Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, from the University of Miami, spoke last, promising political action against states who pursue Senate Bill 1070-like legislation.
"We're putting you on notice," he says. "Stop the nonsense now."
Florida is a state currently considering bills similar to SB 1070.
The event was attended by several hundred people, most of them doctors from out of town on break from presenting at the conference.