Hospitals Shouldn't Have To Play Border Patrol

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H.R. 3722, the Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments of 2004, would have amended the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 to require emergency room doctors and nurses to obtain biometric identification - laser fingerprints or retinal scans - of any patient whom they think might be an illegal immigrant and report their investigations directly to the Department of Homeland Security. Should a hospital not accurately report this information, the treatment costs for medical services rendered would not be reimbursed by the federal government, forcing local hospitals to foot the bill.

Our hospitals and emergency rooms in rural Arizona are staffed by health care professionals in the business of saving lives. We should not force doctors and nurses, whose ranks are already stretched thin in our communities, to act as immigration agents of the federal government. Furthermore, our smaller hospitals along the border and in rural Arizona overwhelmingly have said that they would not interrogate their patients and investigate their immigration status during a medical emergency. I also spoke with local doctors and nurses who stated that the forced requirements of H.R. 3722 would result in degraded emergency services for every patient.

I believe that the current situation at our southern border represents one of the most urgent threats to our national effort in providing for the protection of our citizens. The federal government has thus far been negligent in managing this responsibility. To improve this situation, we need to provide better equipment, modern technology, more manpower, more aircraft, and stronger budgetary resources to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants, illegal drugs and potential terrorists through the Arizona sector of the border. The Mexican government should also take part in cooperative efforts to discourage illegal migration to the U.S.. Within this five-point framework of increased resources and diplomatic force, there lies a complete solution to securing our border. Until these urgent needs are met, our local hospitals should continue to concentrate their resources on the critical role of saving lives and not be involved in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

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