Thursday, July 17, 2014


This is from a New York Times story about towns fighting to exclude young undocumented immigrants:
Some cities have raised health and security concerns. Northeast of Oyster Creek, [Texas,] League City passed a resolution opposing any shelters from opening even though the federal government had no plans to do so. The resolution claimed that "illegal aliens suffering from diseases endemic in their countries of origin are being released into our communities."

The organizations that are hired by federal officials to run some of the emergency shelters housing Central American children dispute claims that the children pose a health threat. Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Baptist Child and Family Services, or B.C.F.S., which runs a shelter for Central American children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, said there had been 133 cases of lice, 25 cases of scabies, 15 cases of chickenpox and one case of H1N1 flu out of thousands of children who have stayed at the base since May.

"The illnesses that we're seeing at these sites are not unlike what public school nurses see," said Ms. Piferrer, whose organization operates temporary and permanent shelters for the children in California and Oklahoma, as well as Texas. "We do not believe that these children present any public health concern."
So where did people get the notion that these kids are rife with dangerous communicable diseases?

It didn't just happen. To a large extent, the right is responsible for putting this idea out there.

Fox News is deeply involved, of course -- as I noted yesterday, here's a story from Fox's Todd Starnes titled "Immigration Crisis: Tuberculosis Spreading at Camps." And here's another Fox story, from last month, that warns of risks from illegal border crossings:
Since illegal immigrants who enter the U.S. are not prescreened in any way, many carry disease. The Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Border Patrol has detained 150,000 illegal immigrants so far in just this year alone. Eighty thousand children are expected to cross the southern border illegally in 2014. The Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have set up temporary holding centers in southern Texas and Arizona, where conditions are cramped and unsanitary. Ten to 25% of the immigrants in that area are suffering from scabies, a highly contagious intensely itchy rash caused by insect mites.

It is clear that a public health crisis on a grand scale is occurring, and that the Centers for Disease Control needs to be directly involved. When these immigrants leave the camps and get on buses and trains, they spread disease to other states.

Already, drug-resistant tuberculosis is spreading in Texas, with several counties having twice the state average number of cases. Dengue Fever, a viral illness spread by mosquitoes which causes marked bone and muscle pain and fatigue and affects over 100 million people per year, is now spreading from the illegal immigrants into Texas and Arizona as infected mosquitoes begin to breed in the areas by the camps. A vaccine for Dengue is in the works but is not yet available. If this worldwide killer ever gets a mosquito-hold here, it will be a public health disaster.
(That story is by Dr. Marc Siegel, a former liberal who used to write for The Nation before his move to the right.)

Here's a story at Britain's Daily Mail titled "Sickness Spreads Among Immigrant Children at U.S. Border Facility as Fears Grow Over Cramped Conditions." It's co-authored by David Martosko, whom the Mail hired away from Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller a while back, in the hope that Martosko would turn out Web stories with viral appeal on the U.S. right.

Oh, and here's another thread worth following. Remember the warning we got from Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia a couple of days ago about the risk of these kids spreading Ebola in the U.S., even though Ebola is found only in Africa, and anyone sick with Ebola couldn't possibly endure the long trek to the U.S. border? Well, I see that a couple of weeks ago this notion was being advanced by a conspiratorialist radio host named Dave Hodges. He said that he learned of the risk for Ebola (as well as other diseases) from a doctor:
On June 30, 2014, I interviewed Dr. Jane Orient, an internal medicine specialist and the Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Dr. Orient stated that by admitting these huge groups of children who come from countries where medical screenings are minimal and hygiene is poor, the United States is at risk for epidemics of serious diseases and viruses that the nation has not seen in years and for which we have no immunity.

The following paragraphs contain the contents and supporting documentation of my phone interview with Dr. Orient....
He quotes a report from Dr. Orient that says, among other things:
Migrants from West Africa and the Middle East, as well and Central and South America are entering through Mexico also -- from areas that have outbreaks of Ebola, Chikungunya, and Dengue fever.
Dr. Orient is an "Expert" at the Heartland Institute, a Koch-financed, ALEC-affiliated junk-science organization for which she has been a tireless Obamacare opponent. And the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, of which she's the executive director, is a free-market group that counts Rand Paul among its members.

Was this Gingrey's source? I'd love to know.

Some of this information is also coming from current and former Border Patrol officers. Chris Cabrera, a Border Patrol agent and union head in the Rio Grande Valley, told a local ABC affiliate that scabies, chicken pox, MRSA, and other diseases were being seen among the children. I don't know whether Cabrera has an ulterior motive -- but I'm deeply skeptical of anything we're told by Zack Taylor, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. What he told Dave Hodges strains credulity:
Taylor ... states that West African illegal immigrants are presently coming into the U.S. through Mexico. These West Africans have been apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector in the last few years. Some of these groups speak Spanish in order to infiltrate into the United States posing as Central American immigrants. This speaks to planning and collusion that some of these groups were taught to speak Spanish so they will "blend in" with other illegal immigrant groups.
Hodges adds:
This is another piece of evidence that the coming series of pandemics has some governmental agency fingerprints on this invasion. Smart money would say that the CIA is involved.
Zack Taylor is a go-to interviewee on the right. Here he is telling Townhall's Katie Pavlich that this crisis is
a predictable, orchestrated and contrived assault on the compassionate side of Americans by her political leaders that knowingly puts minor Illegal Alien children at risk for purely political purposes. Certainly, we are not gullible enough to believe that thousands of unaccompanied minor Central American children came to America without the encouragement, aid and assistance of the United States Government.
Here he is in 2012 telling Glenn Beck's Blaze that "A psychological warfare operation being waged against the American people using things to deflect their attention" from illegal immigration. Here's a YouTube clip of a 2012 Glenn Beck interview of Taylor headlined "Holocaust on the Border."

These are the sources of the "diseased immigrant" panic. It didn't just emerge spontaneously.


UPDATE: In comments, flipyrwhig reminds us that Lou Dobbs was scaremongering about immigrants and leprosy in 2007 -- at precisely the time when Congress was considering a bipartisan immigration reform bill -- which, of course, didn't pass.


Never Ben Better said...

Well, yeh, man; they're all diseased vermin and should be shot on sight, doncha know? Certainly not human like good upstanding white Christian citizens.

Glennis said...

I hear they kill babies and use the blood to make their pupusas.

Seriously, this is the most vile, base xenophobia since the pogroms. Fox News should be ashamed, if it had a sense of shame.

Anonymous said...

And it's been circulating around the nativist right for a lot longer than that. Remember Lou Dobbs affirming, then reaffirming, that illegal immigrants were bringing _leprosy_ with them? Columbia Journalism Review, Of Lepers and Lou Dobbs, May 2007.

Victor said...

"So where did people get the notion that these kids are rife with dangerous communicable diseases?"

Well, it's not like this is new here.
Previous generations of existing Americans (non-Native Americans, of course) said the exact same thing whenever new immigrants arrived here, from:

Basically - WHEREVER they came from.
They were said to be diseased.

And had difficulty getting anything but the most menial, dangerous, and unhealthy jobs.

You know, kind of like Mexican and Central American immigrants today!

Don't forget that classic 19th Century NY City sign (which, I'm sure was displayed in many more cities):

"No Irish Need Apply!"

Steve M. said...

Re Lou Dobbs -- thanks for that. See the update.

Yastreblyansky said...

Speaking of circulating, looks like dengue arrived in Texas in 2003. The outbreak last fall was at first thought to have something to do with Central Americans, but it turned out to be a continuation of the one 11 years ago.