Analyzing Illegal and Refugee Immigration from a Public Health Perspective
Immigration has been the topic of conversation across the political sphere as of late. The combination of the European migration crisis and the porous southern US border has brought about a fierce debate as to what should be done socially and economically with immigrants. However, one aspect of our nation’s refugee acceptance and illegal immigration issue that has not been discussed as frequently is the impact on public health.
The United States has worked for decades to eradicate some of the diseases that frequently plagued the general population. Through vaccination, new sanitation standards, and updates to dated public health practices, we have eliminated many of the diseases that are still prevalent in other nations. Unfortunately, it is possible that the massive amount of undocumented immigrants entering our country unscreened could cause a spike in previously nonexistent illnesses.
According to multiple reports released over the past few years, including one released on World Migrant Day, the number of tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough, mumps, scarlet fever, and bubonic plague cases has increased. Many healthcare professionals have made a direct link to illegal immigration. Below are a few of the statistics:
Tuberculosis: Up 1.7% in 2015 after 23 years of decline
Measles: 667 Cases in 2014 after eradication in 2000
Whooping Cough: 32,971 cases in 2014, 30 times the amount in 1976
Mumps: 688 cases in 2015, after a 99% decrease in prevalence in 1967
All of these diseases have been linked to incoming refugees and undocumented immigrants through the southern border. Many of the camps that house illegal minors are plagued by disease. In 2014, former Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) wrote a scathing letter to Congress about the lack of transparency regarding disease transmission among immigrants. He cited reports of Border Patrol agents contracting diseases from the children. One major news station even reports that tuberculosis is prevalent in multiple camps, citing anonymous reports from healthcare workers employed. Not only is this detrimental to health of Americans, but also the health of the immigrants.
What is the Solution?
A significant amount of regulation is required in order to halt the spread of these infectious diseases. Currently, refugees are not required to have any vaccines prior to entering the United States. This poses a massive risk to our public health, as the MMR vaccine was directly responsible for eradicating measles after it was required by law. With potential disease carriers entering the U.S. in large numbers, it is almost guaranteed that the public will encounter new illnesses more frequently than before. One of the first steps in preventing further outbreaks is to halt refugee migration and develop a comprehensive screening system for communicable diseases. Additionally, vaccination should be required for all refugees entering the country. The combination of these two processes would eliminate the threat that refugees currently pose to public health.
With respect to the southern border, the U.S. government needs to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country by a significant amount. There is no way to analyze the health of individuals who have entered and now remain in the country illegally. The only way to prevent diseases from coming up through the southern border is to cut down on illegal immigration.
Our policy with regard to vaccination and screening significantly differs between migrants and refugees. Many vaccinations are required for United States immigration. This, combined with health screening, has resulted in an extremely small percentage of communicable diseases being brought into our country via legal immigration.
In short, the massive importation of refugees and illegal aliens into the nation is a very real threat to public health. A comprehensive reform to our refugee health policies and border security is essential to prevent the reoccurrence of deadly communicable diseases. Let’s not decimate the hard work of public health workers before us in their successful efforts to eradicate these illnesses.
“Guidelines for Evaluating and Updating Immunizations During the Domestic Medical Examination for Newly Arrived Refugees.” Centers for Disease Control. 11 June, 2015.
“Illegal Alien Minors Spreading TB, Dengue, Swine Flu.” Judicial Watch. 8 July, 2014.
“New Vaccination Criteria for U.S. Immigration.” Centers for Disease Control. 29 March, 2012.
“Six Diseases Return to US as Migration Advocates Celebrate ‘World Refugee Day.’” Breitbart. 19 June, 2016.