The saga of minors from south of the border migrating to the United States in large numbers to escape poverty and violence in their home countries is one of the most heartbreaking stories to emerge in years. These children are often alone and frightened and disoriented in their new surroundings.
Inflaming the tragedy further is the response from soulless right-wing hate squads that have protested these kids as they arrive at detention facilities for processing. Among the dehumanizing taunts that are cast at these innocents by protesters, as well as Fox News anchors and guests, is that the kids are dangerous agents of drug traffickers, terrorists, and gangs. They are described in terms that deprive them of their humanity, like invaders and tsunamis. This allows the haters to ignore that they are just children and transform them into forces of nature that bring nothing but chaos and destruction.
One of the most scurrilous accusations being hurled around is that the immigrant children are menacing disease carriers who will infect our precious homegrown little ones and poison the purity of our Euro-American gene pool. They are threatening an epidemic of infectious maladies long thought to have been eradicated in civilized society. However, an article in the Texas Observer addresses this subject with the sort of facts and informed research from which conservatives recoil as if from the plague (irony intended).
The principle discovery in the Observer reveals that the occurrence of illness in the immigrant children is “wildly overstated.” In fact, if one were inclined to be nervous about the infectious status of a child, they would be better off shunning Perry’s Kids – aka the unvaccinated children suffering under the current GOP regime in Texas.
“Before demonizing undocumented children, we should look at the facts: The vast majority of Central Americans are vaccinated against all these [mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus, diphtheria] 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.”
The article goes on to note that many Central American governments cover the cost of vaccinations at 100%. Compare that to the U.S. where there are many states, including Texas, where routine health care is unavailable due to the political piggishness of Tea Party Republicans. The article states that “one in six kids in Texas is uninsured, and even insured families often must pay for vaccination.” By refusing to expand Medicaid programs, GOP governors like Rick Perry are tangibly lowering the quality and availability of health care and putting lives at risk. There’s your real death panel.
In addition, the tin-foil hatted movement to persuade people that immunizations are actually government sponsored plots to enrich pharmaceutical companies by mandating vaccinations that will cause autism or other debilitating illnesses, has found fertile ground in places like Texas. Consequently, many deluded parents deliberately refuse to have their kids vaccinated. This is making more of a health crisis in the state than anything that might be attributed to immigrants.
The Observer article goes into much greater detail and is well worth reading in full. It includes examples of media disinformation about both disease and immigrants (particularly exposing the lies broadcast on Fox News). It explores the historical attacks on immigrants as disease-carriers going back 200 years, when the targets of the allegations were often the Irish or Jews.
This story raises questions about the effectiveness and integrity of the media. While the Texas Observer deserves credit for doing their job, the rest of the mainstream press has been shamefully delinquent. They haven’t bothered to do the research necessary to serve their audience by keeping them informed. But they have pumped up the tabloid exploitation of phony protesters and pundits with obvious political biases. It will be interesting to see if the Observer’s article gets any national attention.
In the end, it is clear that what is motivating the falsehoods about immigrant children is nothing more than pure racism, fear, ignorance, partisanship, and even greed. This is a humanitarian crisis, not an immigration debate. If Teabagging bigots want to push their fixation with border fences and nativist outrage, let them do it after these kids are taken care of and the imminent risks to their well-being are settled.