The Immigration Problem: What Are The Health Risks? by Elaina F. George, MD

george_smTroubling facts concerning health risks related to the wave of illegal immigrants who are crossing our southern border are coming to light despite efforts by the government to keep Americans in the dark.

The usual tactics of crying racism and implying those wanting answers are selfish and lack compassion have been used to silence those who have questions. Yet questions must be asked and answered because the health of the American people is potentially at risk.

Proponents of accommodating this newest influx of foreigners try to say this immigration wave is no different from those in the past. They are wrong.

Historically, immigrants who legally sought entry to America (such as those through Ellis Island) went through a structured process that checked them for communicable diseases. In some cases, those found to present a health risk were quarantined until they no longer proposed a threat. In other cases, they were sent back to their country of origin.

Today, Border Patrol agents have confirmed those now flooding across the border are not adequately checked for diseases because of the sheer volume, lack of proper screening techniques and lack of manpower.

Advocates for amnesty and acceptance of these tens of thousands of people try to fend off criticism by saying children from Central America have immunization rates similar to American children and therefore do not pose a health risk. But the Migrant Clinicians Network reports that “[i]mmunization disparities continue to exist in Hispanic populations.” Not all in this disparity are children, though it nonetheless points to a potential risk.

This is what we know. Immigrants coming here have been documented as having communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and swine flu. Because there is limited use of the vaccine for the former and limited effectiveness of vaccine for the latter (studies vary on the effectiveness of the swine flu vaccine; estimates range from 42 percent to 96 percent), individuals coming in contact with people with these diseases are at risk of becoming infected. Those most vulnerable to contracting illnesses from illegals are the first responders such as the Border Patrol agents. In turn, they may pass diseases and conditions on to their children, spouses, seniors and those with whom they come in contact who have compromised immune systems.

Detainees in California have been hospitalized with bacterial pneumonia and at least one border agent was stricken with bacterial pneumonia in Texas. Other documented diseases and conditions include meningitis, scabies and lice.

It isn’t the diseases that we have been vaccinated against that are the most concerning, but ones like TB, which have developed multiple drug resistance, or tropical diseases such as Dengue fever that doctors may have difficulty diagnosing and for which there is no treatment.

The American population is already at risk with illegals being dropped off at bus stations and being put on commercial airlines. The risk could escalate this fall if sick children are placed in schools and expose their classmates, teachers and extended families.

The Obama Administration is seeking over $3 billion dollars, largely for legal representation and for dispersing people to various states and into communities without notification of residents or local government officials. All this is under the guise of protecting the privacy of these immigrants. It seems there is little attention being paid to the health risk these immigrants present.

Why aren’t questions being raised about whether it is humane to place people in unoccupied prisons, overcrowded holding pens and now FEMA centers without adequate health screening or effective quarantine of those who are sick from the general population?

Is it compassionate to dump people at bus stations with nothing but the clothes on their back who have nowhere to go, no job and no money and who present a possible health risk?

Is it moral to encourage people to travel over a thousand miles, forcing them to run a gauntlet that puts them at risk of abuse, rape and potential human trafficking on top of health risks?

Is winning at all costs and staying in power so important that it trumps the safety of both these illegal immigrants and the American people?

The answer is clear. The immigration problem and the Obama Administration’s response is not about compassion — it is about politics.

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Dr. Elaina George, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, is a board-certified otolaryngologist and host of a weekly talk radio show, “Medicine On Call,” that explores health issues and the politics of medicine. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

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