Thursday, May 27, 2004

Queens Chronicle-Central Edition-Congressman Crowley of Queens Praises Defeat of Bill to Limit Illegal Alien Health Care

Queens Chronicle-Central Edition

Congressman Joseph Crowley celebrated the defeat of a Republican-led bill in the House this week which would have forced doctors and nurses to verify the immigration status of patients before providing medical treatment.
Crowley, whose Seventh Congressional District in western Queens and the Bronx is among the most ethnically diverse in the country, called the defeated legislation “mean spirited” and “a piece of garbage.”
“This bill was a direct assault on my congressional district,” said Crowley at a press conference on Monday in the lobby of Elmhurst Hospital Center.
The “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments of 2004” was introduced by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-California).
Crowley said the bill only made it to the floor of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as “political payback” for Rohrabacher voting in favor of a recent prescription drug care bill. However, the bill, which he claims had “elements of racism,” was resoundly defeated on May 18th.
Crowley is now urging his constituents, whether they are here legally or not, to seek necessary medical care without fear of reprisal from the federal government.
“The defeat of this bill was a victory for our nation’s public health,” Crowley said. “Hospitals, doctors and nurses ought to be free to do the incredibly difficult jobs we all depend on them to do. This bill would have endangered the health of the undocumented. And, this bill would have endangered us all. Communicable diseases do not ask for immigration status.”
The congressman said that if the legislation had passed, it would have virtually ensured that undocumented immigrants—who Crowley admits comprise a significant number in his district—would have avoided seeking emergency medical care for fear of being deported.
He fears that a pregnant mother would avoid checking into a hospital prior to giving birth or that a patient with a communicable disease such as tuberculosis or HIV would wait too long for treatment, placing entire communities at risk of infection.
“This bill would have created a wedge between patient and provider and eroded a trust that took years to develop,” said Dr. Joseph Masci, director of medicine at Elmhurst Hospital Center. “It would serve the community greatly as we move forward not to have this bill.”
Suleika Cabrera Drinane, founder of the Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, works frequently with seniors in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Many, she explained, are fearful of visiting a hospital and will often wait too long to seek out treatment.
“We need to continue to let the immigrant community know that they are not in danger,” Cabrera Drinane said. “In many cases, emergency rooms are one of the only places to get care in the hospital.”
And, while Rohrabacher’s bill was rejected with bipartisan support, Crowley fears that elements of the bill could get attached to some forthcoming piece of legislation. The congressman, though, warns that such a move would be unwise and have potentially dangerous medical implications.
“This bill doesn’t serve our public health,” Crowley said, “and it doesn’t serve the overall interests of the United States.”


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