Georgia’s harmful immigration law, modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070, requires anyone who is applying for or renewing a professional license in the state to provide documents to prove their citizenship or legal residency. But the massive amount of paperwork required to do this is creating a bureaucratic nightmare for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in the state.
Instead of taking a matter of days, the process is leading to delays of weeks or months for health care workers to renew or apply for their professional licenses. As a result, about 600 nurses and 1,300 doctors have lost their ability to work in Georgia so far.
The Georgia secretary of state’s office — which processes license applications of nurses, pharmacists, and veterinarians — does not have enough staff to work through the cumbersome process to restore licenses for those medical professionals, partly because the office saw its budget cut by 40 percent at the same time as the immigration law went into effect. Georgia’s medical board is responsible for licensing other medical professionals in the state, such as doctors, physician assistants, and even acupuncturists, and is running into the same problem:
Director LaSharn Hughes says she sent 41,000 letters of notification out on a recent Thursday. “And by Monday, we’d burned up a fax machine,” Hughes said. “We didn’t have the staff. We didn’t have the equipment.”
Phones go unanswered. Paperwork piles up. And processing delays, coupled with confusion over the new rules, mean lots of expired licenses. [...]
Donald Palmisano Jr. executive director of the Medical Association of Georgia, says the law fixes a problem that never existed — at least not among doctors. “We’re not aware of any undocumented immigrants that are physicians,” Palmisano said.
Even D.A. King, a right-wing activist who helped write Georgia’s immigration law, said he thinks the provision goes too far. Earlier this year, a bill to fix portions of the extreme immigration measure failed in the legislature. “I am not only outraged, but sincerely disappointed and puzzled that our repair legislation was not allowed a vote,” King said. Meanwhile, state officials say the documents requirement has not uncovered any undocumented immigrants who applied for professional licenses.