Hannah Levintova

Hannah Levintova

Assistant Editor

Hannah came to Mother Jones after stints at NPR and the Washington Monthly. A proud New Englander, she enjoys tea, good books, and cold weather.

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New Arizona Bill Wants Hospitals Policing Immigration

| Mon Jan. 28, 2013 10:22 AM EST
The state that brought you SB 1070, perhaps the harshest immigration law in the nation, is at it again with a bill that could bring illegal immigrant-hunting into new territory: hospitals.

Proposed last week by Republican state Rep. Steve Smith, HB 2293 would require hospital workers to verify the immigration status of uninsured people seeking care. They'd have to make note of any undocumented patient, and then call the police.

Speaking outside the Arizona capitol on Thursday, Rep. Smith called it simply "a data-collection bill" to figure out how much Arizona is spending on illegal immigrant care, promising that no one would be denied treatment or deported once their status is disclosed.

Neither of these guarantees is mentioned anywhere in the bill, but co-sponsor Rep. Carl Seel told Arizona's KPHO that hospitals wouldn't deny treatment, since "we're a benevolent nation."

If enacted, the bill could scare immigrants away from getting medical attention. Nationwide, the undocumented are already far less likely to seek health care. Advocates say the low rate is partially explained by a fear that they'll be reported to authorities. This law would do little to lighten such distrust: It doesn't explain what police should or can do with the data flowing in from hospitals. When he was asked whether law enforcement would show up to hospitals when notified, Smith's response was: "We have no clue."

Ostensibly, doctors wouldn't have to juggle providing care and phoning the cops; the bill makes it clear that other hospital employees should handle the bill's requirements. Still, the state's hospitals are pushing back. Pete Wertheim, a spokesman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, says that with more than 3 million patients each year, the rules would be impossible to implement with current budgets and staffing. He also points out that if the law deterred immigrants with communicable diseases—think tuberculosis—from seeking treatment, it could endanger everyone in the state.

The bill is still in early stages, and hasn't yet made it to committee. And if precedent is any indicator, it's not likely to pass: Rep. Smith has introduced similar bills before, with little success. Laws he proposed last year that would have implemented immigration checks at schools and hospitals both failed in the Senate.

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The NRA Goes MIA…Yet Again

| Tue Dec. 18, 2012 3:50 PM EST

Update, 12/18/12: The NRA has issued an official press release about the Newtown shooting, dispatching it via Twitter and Facebook after four days of social media silence. "We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," it reads. The short statement makes no mention of specific gun laws or policies, though it states that “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Read the full statement here.

As the country has reeled from the Newtown massacre, the National Rifle Association has been noticeably silent. Its Twitter account has been mute since Friday morning, and its Facebook page has been taken down. Its online radio program has been saying guns aren't to blame, and "sources close to the issue" tell Fox News that the NRA will speak up after "a proper period for mourning." But as of this writing, the gun rights advocacy group has yet to issue any official statement on the worst grade school shooting in US history.  

Virtual silence immediately following mass shootings is the NRA's usual M.O. In 2011, following the shooting that wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, NRA president Wayne LaPierre boasted at the Conservative Political Action Conference, "Ladies and gentlemen, in the days after the tragic events in Tucson, the NRA refused to respond to the media's demands for reaction." (Italics and bold in original transcript.) Earlier, the group acknowledged its code of silence in a leaked 2006 brochure, though it also noted that it eventually might lift its self-imposed gag rule:

NRA has rightfully declined to join the debate, because no effective solution includes infringement of the Second Amendment. Although tragic, these incidents have called for no more anti-gun measures than any other crime committed with firearms. But the advent of domestic terrorism, compounded with recent high-profile school shootings, force America's gun owners to join the national discussion in a way we can no longer decline. Not because the Second Amendment is at fault, but because the Second Amendment is at risk.

But the NRA remains reluctant to join in the national discussion that immediately follows many mass shootings. We searched for the NRA's public statements following the 62 mass shootings of the past 30 years and we found few formal responses to most of them—that includes press releases or mentions on the sites of either the NRA or its lobbying wing, the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action.

When the NRA does acknowledge a shooting, it almost always does so a few days after the event. It often skips past expressing sympathy to make a political point: Gun control is definitely not the answer to preventing the next tragedy. Or as one NRA official put it shortly after a gunman killed 6 people and wounded 29 in a Stockton, California, schoolyard in 1989, "You're not going to be able to legislate crazy people sane."

Since the advent of the internet, the NRA often does not make such statements in its own name, instead citing or linking to third parties who have expressed similar sentiments. More recent examples of the NRA's record of trying to say as little as possible about mass shootings:

Quick Reads: "The Injustice System" by Clive Stafford Smith

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 7:08 AM EST

The Injustice System: A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong

By Clive Stafford Smith

VIKING

Accused of a sensational double murder in 1986 Miami, Trinidadian millionaire Kris Maharaj seemed destined for death row, and ended up there thanks to a conviction-hungry prosecutor and a hapless defense attorney (now a circuit court judge). This memoir, which reads like a true-crime thriller, describes how defense lawyer Clive Stafford Smith got his client off death row by uncovering brazen misconduct, both judicial (one judge actually solicited a bribe from the defendant) and prosecutorial (withholding evidence). It also turned out that the murder victims, presented in court as upright businessmen, had been laundering cash for a drug cartel, and skimming off the top. Smith's account leaves us utterly convinced of his client's innocence and delivers a powerful indictment of the system we rely on for justice.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

8 Months After Trayvon: "Stand Your Ground" Law Deemed Just Fine by Florida

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 7:22 PM EST

The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in February turned a national spotlight on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Following widespread outcry about the killing—in which George Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin allegedly in self defense—Florida Gov. Rick Scott convened a task force to evaluate the 2005 law. This week, the group came back with their report. Their conclusion? The controversial law is just fine as it is. But there's just one problem: That verdict flies in the face of much troubling evidence to the contrary.

Stand Your Ground essentially makes it legal to shoot one's way out of any situation that feels threatening: Unless law enforcement authorities can prove that's an invalid explanation from a shooter, a resulting homicide can be deemed justifiable under the law, and the shooter is immune from criminal and civil prosecution. As Mother Jones reported in June, Florida's Stand Your Ground law kicked off a wave of such legislation across the country, with 24 of them passed elsewhere since, thanks to much backing by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The evidence to date indicates it is terrible public policy. Since the spreading of the law, multiple studies have found that Stand Your Ground laws:

But after six months of review, it looks like Gov. Scott's task force took little of this into account. The first recommendation in their final report is a firm endorsement of the Stand Your Ground law: "[A]ll persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner."

The few recommendations for change that the report offers are vague. They recommend more training for law enforcement on the meaning of self-defense laws, that the legislature better define a shooter's criminal immunity, and that it fund study of the correlation between Stand Your Ground laws and diversity variables, including race. (Nevermind that such studies on race already exist.)

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