PHOENIX - Local school districts and hospitals don't know what to make of four immigration bills moving through the state Legislature. Senate Bills 1141, 1611 and 1407 deal with the immigration status of students enrolling in state schools, and 1405 regards hospital care.
SB 1141 requires parents to provide verifiable documentation of Arizona residency to any charter or public school they enroll their child in. Currently school districts only ask for proof of birth, such as a birth certificate or some other ID with an affidavit saying why the child does not have a birth certificate. The bill also requires schools to maintain the documentation.
Senate Bill 1611 makes a similar requirement and states that acceptable residency documents include: a U.S birth certificate or delayed birth certificate; a U.S. passport or certificate of birth abroad; a foreign passport with a U.S. visa; a federal I-94 travel form with photograph; an employment authorization or refugee travel document form from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; a U.S. certificate of naturalization or citizenship; a tribal certificate of Indian blood or affidavit of birth; or an Arizona driver's license issued after 1996 or an Arizona ID.
A third bill, Senate Bill 1407 states that "to the extent permitted by federal law, the Arizona Department of Education is to collect data from school districts on populations of students who are enrolled and who cannot prove lawful residence in the U.S."
It requires ADE to submit an annual report on the information to the governor, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, the president of the Arizona Senate and the Arizona secretary of state. The report must contain research on the impact the enrollment of students who cannot prove their lawful residence in the state have on the education system, an estimate of the cost to taxpayers to teach students who are not U.S. citizens and students who cannot prove lawful residency in the U.S.
SB 1407 also allows the superintendent of Public Education to withhold a district's state funding if he determines the district is not in compliance with the law.
Kingman Academy of Learning District Administrator Susan Chan said she was unfamiliar with the bills, but after taking a look at them said it would be hard to determine the effect they would have on staff and the school's budget because there are no clear instructions in the bill.
"Any sort of additional paperwork is going to take more time. It's just one more thing for us to do," Chan said "If it passes, we will do whatever we are told to do."
Kingman Unified School District Superintendent Roger Jacks also said he has not been following the bills closely. All the district does now is ask for proof of birth so the district knows who the legal guardian of the child is and that the child has not been kidnapped, he said.
"We don't deny the opportunity of an education to any student," Jacks said. "Where the new laws will take us, I don't know, but if they become law, we will follow them."
Schools may not be the only institutions asking proof of citizenship. Senate Bill 1405 requires hospital admissions officers to confirm the immigration status of patients, if they do not have health insurance, while they are being admitted or treated.
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association strongly opposes the bill, according to its website. If the bill passes, it could result in a lengthier admissions process for all patients and an undue burden on ill and injured patients who would be required to carry proof of insurance or proof of citizenship.
"Our opinion is pretty similar to (the association)," said Kingman Regional Medical Center CEO Brian Turney. "We understand what (the state is) trying to do, but it's a lot of red tape and bureaucracy on our part. It's not really an issue in the Kingman area and it will slow down processes here. I think there are better areas to focus on" (to control illegal immigration).