Show Me Your Papers

Bob Clark - 2012 Jupiter Discovery RiderIn anticipation of my Jupiter Discovery Ride with its theme of immigration, I have been closely following the Supreme Court case of Arizona v. United States, a case addressing the legality of the Arizona immigration law known as SB 1070, sometimes called the "show me your papers" law. According to the statement of legislative intent, the law was designed to make “attrition through enforcement” the official policy of all state and local agencies in Arizona.  Oral arguments were heard before the court on April 25th, and a decision is unlikely before June, after my visit to Arizona.

According to the American Immigration Council, the Supreme Court will not rule on the entirety of SB 1070, but rather will only consider the following four provisions that were blocked from taking effect by lower court judges:

Section 2(B) requires state and local police officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is unlawfully present in the United States. This section also requires state and local authorities to determine the immigration status of any person placed under arrest, regardless of whether the person is suspected of being in the country unlawfully.

Section 3 makes it a crime under Arizona law for unauthorized immigrants to violate the provisions of federal law requiring them to apply for “registration” with the federal government and to carry a registration card if one has been issued to them.

Section 5(C) makes it a crime under Arizona law for immigrants who are not authorized to work in the United States to apply for work, solicit work in a public place, or perform work within the state’s borders.

Section 6 authorizes state and local police officers to arrest immigrants without a warrant where “probable cause” exists that they committed a public offense making them removable from the United States.

Image courtesy of Charles Dharapak / AP. Opponents of Arizona's 'show me your papers' immigration law rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington.However, the remaining provisions of the bill are not currently being contested, and may remain in force regardless of the decision of the Court in this case.  As a physician, I was interested in Section 5, 13-2929 of the law which would not be affected by the Court decision.  It specifies that those who "conceal, harbor or shield or attempt to conceal, harbor or shield" a foreign person who came to the United States illegally are "guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor" punishable by a fine of at least $1000.  If the action involves ten or more illegal aliens, the crime becomes a felony.

It could be argued that health care providers who fail to report illegal aliens under their care will violate the law and be considered criminals.  The bill provides physicians with no guidance as to what constitutes "reasonable grounds" to suspect that someone is in the country illegally, leaving the particulars of suspicion to anyone's imagination.  Will health care providers in Arizona need to ask for documents before seeing certain patients? Will physicians themselves need to carry their own passports at all times, depending on their physical appearance or accent?  How does this affect migrant and community health centers in Arizona, that are funded through the U.S. Public Health Service and are committed to providing care in underserved areas?   Will it force health care providers to choose between the dignity of their profession and the indignity of arrest or conviction for violating the law?

This provision of the law may threaten one of the oldest traditions of medicine, that physicians shall protect patients and their confidentiality, regardless of nationality or race.  When I visit Arizona in May I hope to be able to talk to patients or physicians about whether the requirement to produce immigration documents has impeded patients' access to care or has violated the trust that physicians and nurses work to earn from their patients.

Click to share thisClick to share this