Taking a page from Arizona's "Papers, please" law that targets immigrants in an effort to, supposedly, crack down on illegal immigration, an Alabama law has now kicked in which requires that papers be presented as proof of U.S. citizenship. It specifically goes after...physicians.
Because, rogue illegal physicians from outside the U.S. are apparently a big problem in Alabama. Apparently, physicians from other countries who have entered the United States illegally flock to Alabama because it's so easy to blend in there. Or maybe it's because they believe Alabama is the best place in America to live. Or they were big football fans of Coach Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide.
You'd think that Alabama would love to have as many doctors as possible in the state, because the lab coats they were are usually white.
You'd also think that the most important documentation a physician would need for a Medical Licensing Board is a diploma from an accredited medical school. And that everything after that is gravy. And that things like, say, citizenship would fall under the exact same laws that, say, everyone follows.
You'd think all that, grasshopper, but no, in Alabama, when it comes to the ancient art of healing, there is a crafty ancient wisdom hidden to other men. "Do you like tacos?" takes precedence over "What are the symptoms of arterial sclerosis?"
To be fair, the law doesn't single out physicians, but rather anyone applying for a professional license in the state. Because, apparently, professionals applying for licenses in Alabama is an even more widespread problem than just doctors.
Alabama actually passed a more harsh "Papers, please" law than Arizona in 2011, however most of the law was thrown out by the courts. But some parts of H.B. 56 have remained active. And the section that deals with physicians came into effect this year. The Medical Examiner Board has already begun sending out letters to doctors.
I'm not sure if the law allows police to stop any suspicious person on the street in a lab coat and stethoscope who doesn't look like they're a legal doctor and ask for documentation.
How draconian was the initial law? It prohibited undocumented immigrants from making business transactions in Alabama. It's not clear whether this would have included illegal immigrants stopping at a gas station to fill up in an effort to have enough gas to get out of the state.
After much of the law was shot down, Alabama lawmakers rewrote it, out of concern that there was a perception that it had hurt business. However, what could have ever given them that idea??
But at least some of the original law was preserved, and Alabama seems like it will be safe for the time being by those roaming packs of illegal immigrant physicians. It seems such a wise use of state funds.
In unrelated news, a 2009 ranking (the most-recent I could find) of states whose citizens over the age of 25 have high school diplomas, Alabama ranks 46th.
And yes, for those keeping track, that was a cheap shot.
What does seem clear in all of this, though, is that the primary rule of the Hippocratic Oath "First, Do No Harm" does not apply in Alabama to elected officials.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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