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Illegal immigration isn't just a security issue — it's a public health crisis in the making

Conservative Review

The northern triangle of Central America is one of the most violent and impoverished regions in the world and is the prime hub for human and drug trafficking. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that bringing in hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from these countries within a few years will bring in crime, gangs, and drugs. Indeed, that is what has happened since 2014. But what is being overlooked by many, particularly those on the Left, is the strong likelihood that by not blocking illegal immigration, we are importing devastating diseases that we’ve worked hard and long to eradicate from our country.

This is how regressive progressives are. They turn back a century of indispensable health care progress and sacrifice it on the altar of political correctness.

Over the past century, Americans have successfully diminished and, in some cases, nearly eradicated certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, pertussis, rubella, malaria, hepatitis, polio, measles, and mumps. Over time, every American has been checked and inoculated (except for the few who refuse), and all the legal immigrants are screened for these diseases. This has been done since our first immigration laws and was a value as deeply embedded into the tissue of our immigration politics as any other issue.

But what happens when hundreds of thousands are enticed to come here illegally thanks to the endless incentives? And what happens when they are coming from the most impoverished areas that are a century behind us in medical progress in terms of combating infectious diseases? Well, while we’ve made enormous strides in improving public health as a nation, we are not keeping up with our policies on immigration from even one century ago. In fact, we are going backwards.

Here is why it’s inconceivable that the recent resurgence of many diseases we thought were on their way to extinction is not in large part due to illegal immigration. We know that the countries dominating these caravans – Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – have high rates of infectious diseases. We know that it’s not the wealthy and well-to-do citizens who are migrating here. And here’s what else we know. As I reported earlier, while we’ve apprehended hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens every year, there are hundreds of thousands of others who come in undetected without any health screening.

For argument’s sake, let’s just assume that all those who are apprehended and then released into our country are inoculated and screened before being released, pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control’s protocol. What about those we never see but are able to get in because the Border Patrol is busy dealing with the ones we are amnestying? While the data is purposely being suppressed, no logical person can deny that there’s a serious public health concern with these migrant caravans and the thousands of others who come in undocumented as a result of the border officials being overwhelmed.

In general, this is a part of even the legal immigration discussion that our political class wants to ignore. As I’ve said repeatedly, immigration from the third world is fine when it’s done responsibly and gradually, but when it’s done in such large numbers so quickly and dominates our system, we will begin to bring in all its vices. Thus, along with poverty, we will bring in diseases.

As professor of economics at George Mason University Walter Williams observed in a September column, “Data reported to the National Tuberculosis Surveillance System show the TB incidence among foreign-born people in the United States (15.1 cases per 100,000) is approximately 13 times the incidence among U.S.-born people (1.2 cases per 100,000).” Moreover, Williams cites a 2002 CDC study that shows countries that have recently taken in a number of third world immigrants are seeing a relatively high prevalence of tuberculosis among the newcomers. “Today, the proportion of immigrants among persons reported as having TB exceeds 50 percent in several European countries, including Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. A similar proportion has been predicted for the United States.”

But let’s put the debate over numbers and origin of legal immigration on the shelf for a moment. Why can’t we all agree that incentivizing illegal immigrants from countries with a high prevalence of these infectious diseases is a colossal public health risk? Illegal immigrants are less educated than their legal counterparts and are even more prone to carry these diseases, in addition to never being detected, screened, and inoculated. Whereas TB prevalence among legal immigrants in America is 15.1 cases per 100,000, which is high enough, the prevalence of TB among Guatemalans is 106 per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. In other words, Guatemalans are 83 times more likely to have TB than Americans and 7 times more likely than legal immigrants.

The Centers for Disease Control, in its 2017 report, further found that dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses are either prevalent in or endemic to the three Central American countries. They also found that malaria is “endemic” to these countries, but bizarrely concluded that the “prevalence is not high enough to justify routine screening or presumptive treatment.” They further found that these countries are at “high risk for neglected tropical diseases,” with over one million children being treated each year for soil-transmitted helminths in Guatemala and Honduras. Central America experiences at least 200,000 cases of Chagas a year, a disease that is “the most common cause of nonischemic heart disease in Central America and may cause cardiomyopathy years after initial infection.”

In addition, there are numerous other diseases for which they have no data, but it’s very likely they are endemic to the impoverished population in this part of the world.

It’s also important to remember that as bad as the health care is in these countries, “access to basic healthcare in Central America largely depends on socioeconomic status,” according to the CDC. On average, it is the most impoverished population coming here, given that we know they are coming for economic reasons, not primarily because of violence (which would, in theory, drive out the more wealthy population as well).

Obviously, we have our own problem with a small minority of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, but ultimately these new outbreaks, such as the recent measles outbreak, are originating from other countries. Certainly, even if we didn’t have illegal immigration, there’s always a risk of bringing in diseases from the cross-border travel of Americans. However, there is no denying that the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the fact that millions of illegals have come over the border this generation from very risk-prone countries without ever being screened in detention facilities because they were never apprehended. It’s simply unacceptable that our government refuses to study this issue further and consider this as a major factor when deciding policies that incentivize caravans and other invasions.

Have we become so political as a nation that political correctness will allow us to revert to the 18th-century health standards? Ironically, the Left is obsessed with creating a monopoly for the insurance cartel under the guise of promoting health care, but they seem to never care about the actual “care” part. This is why the government and the media have stifled any data on this issue and we never hear any concern about the resurgence in diseases very plausibly emanating from this gaping hole in our public health defense. One journal article from the Infectious Disease Society of America in 2009 agonized over the “ethical concerns” that the “publication of the results would lead to increased stigmatization and discrimination of undocumented persons in the United States and to harsher measures, such as deportation, when these persons receive a diagnosis of TB.”

From our earliest colonial laws, through state regulations and our first federal immigration laws, our politicians always sought to protect this country from diseases brought in through immigration. Courts in the 1800s even ruled that states didn’t violate the foreign commerce clause by regulating the flow of ships in order to prevent those with diseases from landing on their shores (New York v. Milne, 1837).

Indeed, by creating new “rights” at the expense of the social compact right of Americans to sovereignty, we are neither more enlightened, advanced or more progressive than our forefathers. In fact, our robust knowledge about diseases and our deft ability to prevent them make our utter disregard for the public health concerns of open borders all the more regressive and benighted.

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