Disease Ridden Children – Really?
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With thousands of children from Central America arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, an old plague is once again sweeping the country—the fear of the diseased immigrant.
“Our schools cannot handle this influx, we don’t even know what all diseases they have,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)said recently. “Our health care systems can’t withstand this influx.”
Fox News commentator Cal Thomas asks, for example, if “the unaccompanied minors pouring over the border…have brought with them proof of vaccination?” Thomas accuses the border-crossers of harboring vaccine-preventable diseases such as “mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria.”
Before demonizing undocumented children, we should look at the facts: The vast majority of Central Americans are vaccinated against all these diseases. Governments concerned about health, and good parents investing in their kids, have made Central American kids better-vaccinated than Texan kids. We fear them not because they are actually sick, but because of powerful anti-immigration narratives that link foreigners to disease.
Consider, for example, Guatemala. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Guatemalan kids are more likely than Texans to be immunized for most infectious diseases. Guatemala has universal health care. Vaccines are 100 percent funded by the government.
By comparison, one in six kids in Texas is uninsured, and even insured families often must pay for vaccination. That means that many Texas kids fall behind on vaccinations, or miss them altogether when their family can’t afford a doctor’s visit. Other families refuse vaccination.
These children are refugees that are escaping violence that is the result of the failed war on drugs and decades of misguided US foreign policy. The diseased ridden children is a straw man for anti-immigration and bigotry. The current increase in diseases like measles, chicken pocks and mumps is not a result of immigration but foolish American parents who refuse vaccinations.