by Max Brantley
The legislature next week is expected to take up HB 1292, which would prohibit all state services, except emergency or life-saving care, to "illegal aliens." And how will they do this? Every single state agency will have to demand a notarized affidavit of citizenship from every person who seeks state services. Racial profiling not allowed. All must sign. All must be notarized. Dreadfully sick and at a UAMS facility seeking an antibiotic or other relief? This is no emergency. Please stand in line at our notary window first, thank you.
Mean, time-consuming and expensive stuff in the interest of rooting out the occasional balm of state/Christian charity extended to the strangers among us.
Arkansas Times publisher Alan Leveritt, long an advocate for the state's immigrant community, has written to legislators in opposition to the legislation. His letter follows.
LETTER FROM ALAN LEVERITT
I publish Arkansas Times along with El Latino, the Spanish language weekly here in Little Rock. I am really concerned about a bill you will be voting on next week.
I understand the Alien Benefits bill will be coming up. While pretty much everything in the bill is already prohibited by state or federal law (in-state tuition, Medicaid, etc.), there are a couple of provisions that are going to cost the state a fortune and cripple the distribution of state benefits to regular Arkansans.
Under this bill, every time someone receives a state benefit, they will need to sign a notarized affidavit that they are here legally. State employees will not be able to ‘profile’ people by color, accent, etc. Everyone will need to sign. According to the head of DHS, his agency serves 1.5 million Arkansans a year and under this law, he will need 1.5 million affidavits and an army of notary publics. This bill could be renamed the Notary Public Full Employment Act. According to the bill, the state must provide the notary public service free to the citizens. In addition, much of the paperwork for these benefits is done on-line or by mail. I cannot imagine how we will notarize something on-line. People will have to leave home and drive to their nearest DHS office, a problematic situation for elderly or disabled Arkansans. DHS plans to testify against this bill.
DHS is just the beginning. Think of the driver’s license process—more millions of affidavits…and the lists of state agencies goes on.
There is another provision that prohibits any health-care benefit to undocumented aliens except for emergency or a life threatening condition. I am not a lawyer but this would appear to prohibit free treatment for non-life threatening but communicable diseases such measles, chicken pox, syphilis, etc.
I have read the bill and cannot find anything in it that is not already covered by state or federal law. In-state tuition is specifically prohibited both by an attorney general’s opinion and instruction to the Dept. of Higher Ed by the governor. Everyone has to produce a birth certificate to get a driver’s license and if it is a foreign certificate, they have to show how they are here legally.
In essence, this bill is intended to let 6% of our population know they are not welcome here. What is unintended is that it will cost millions of dollars in state salaries and printing. Not to mention the long lines and delays it will create for citizens waiting to do their business with the state.
Please oppose this poorly written and mean spirited piece of legislation.