Freshman Republinut state Senator Steve Smith, the guy who knocked off Democrat Rebecca Rios in District 23 last year, longs to make a name for himself on the backs of impoverished and ill undocumented immigrants.
Indeed, in a Q & A with AZCentral.com during his candidacy, he pretty much assured readers that all of Arizona's problems could be solved if those pesky illegals could be driven off the state welfare rolls.
Problem with that is, they're not really on there to begin with. Both state and federal laws prevent those here illegally from obtaining federal benefits administered by the state.
Don't believe me? You don't have to. Just read the following excerpt from the nativist Federation for American Immigration Reform. Even FAIR acknowledges that illegal immigrants don't have access to most public benefits:
Illegal immigrants are barred from the following federal public benefits: grants, contracts, loans, licenses, retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, post secondary education, food assistance, and unemployment benefits. States are barred from providing state or locally funded benefits to illegal immigrants unless a state law is enacted granting such authority.
FAIR is correct on this point. Know why all this is true? Because of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, signed by none other than Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton.
State laws similarly bar illegal immigrants from obtaining benefits from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. In fact, state law instructs DES employees to report those who are applying for public benefits, and who are believed to be here illegally, to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
And DES has been doing just that. So much so that many legal immigrants and illegal immigrants whose children are American citizens are afraid to apply for the benefits they rightfully deserve.
But there's one place where persons legal and illegal, citizens and non-citizens have so far been able to go without harassment: hospital emergency rooms.
Smith would like to change that. He's the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 1405, which would turn hospital employees into de facto ICE agents.
A. BEFORE A HOSPITAL ADMITS A PERSON FOR NONEMERGENCY CARE, A HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS OFFICER MUST CONFIRM THAT THE PERSON IS A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES, A LEGAL RESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OR LAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES. THE ADMISSIONS OFFICER MAY USE ANY METHOD PRESCRIBED IN SECTION 1-501 TO VERIFY CITIZENSHIP OR LEGAL STATUS.
B. IF THE ADMISSIONS OFFICER DETERMINES THAT THE PERSON DOES NOT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF SUBSECTION A OF THIS SECTION, THE ADMISSIONS OFFICER MUST CONTACT THE LOCAL FEDERAL IMMIGRATION OFFICE.
C. IF THE HOSPITAL PROVIDES EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARE PURSUANT TO FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS TO A PERSON WHO DOES NOT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF SUBSECTION A OF THIS SECTION, ON SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT OF THE PATIENT THE ADMISSIONS OFFICER MUST CONTACT THE LOCAL FEDERAL IMMIGRATION OFFICE.
I'm not sure what's supposed to transpire if you don't happen to have proof of citizenship, legal residency or lawful presence on you. Granted, the bill doesn't seem to deny emergency care. But knowledge of such a law would surely scare the bejesus out of those seeking medical assistance, if they or their children happen to be undocumented.
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And that is likely the effect Smith and his co-sponsors, such as state Senate President Russell Pearce, are intending: fear. As the undocumented do not have direct access to public benefits, much less health insurance, an emergency room is the hope of last resort. As it is for all uninsured persons.
Now the undocumented will have to weigh the risk of being deported against the risk of not being treated for their ailments. Or of their children not being treated.
The public at large is ill-served by such an idiotic, mean-spirited proposal. What if there's an epidemic of some infectious disease? Some of those suffering from or at risk for the disease may avoid hospitals altogether because they could be turned over to la migra.
In any case, Smith's bill's scheduled to be heard by the state Senate judiciary committee on Monday, February 14, at 2 p.m. Perhaps, in light of those undocumented who may end up suffering or even dying because of this measure, we should refer to the hearing as, "Steve Smith's St. Valentine's Day massacre."