Healthcare providers call Florida immigration bill a 'direct attack' on communities

Immigration-related Florida Senate Bill 1718 is now on Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for signature and has drawn opposition from the state's healthcare providers.

The bill, which reached the governor's desk May 9 after approval by the state legislature, will force hospitals to comply with new regulations mandating immigrants reveal their documented status when they seek care.

Such a move will threaten immigrants' access to care, approximately 80 healthcare providers in Florida said in a letter to legislators.

"As healthcare providers in the state of Florida, we write to express our opposition to HB 1617/SB 1718," the letter states. "If passed, we believe this legislation will directly undermine public health in Florida."

Concerns range from immigrants not seeking care because of fears about being targeted and negative effects on public health as fewer healthy people impact entire communities. One in 5 people are immigrants in Florida, the letter stressed.

Hospitals are legally "protected areas" where immigration status issues cannot be enforced.

"Safeguarding this principle of healthcare settings as protected areas is essential to ensuring that residents feel safe seeking needed care, and are not deterred for fear of unknown outcomes," according to the letter.

The bill could also lead to higher health costs for all Floridians, the letter said. Such legislation would drive up visits to emergency rooms, the most expensive form of healthcare, for example. The legislation would also increase the burden on already stretched healthcare workers.

"This bill is a direct attack on our most vulnerable communities," providers said. "Every Floridian deserves to have access to healthcare without fear, and to be treated with dignity and respect."

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