Among the many humanitarian concerns raised by the caravan attempting to cross our southern border is one that poses an alarming risk to the health of our communities: many caravaners have serious illnesses, including communicable diseases.
As a physician who served as a Member of Congress, I know how important it is to take this troubling fact into account as President Trump works with Congress to resolve the current crisis and to address the glaring deficiencies in our immigration policy. When those determined to oppose the President ignore or minimize public-health risks, they hurt not only Americans, but also the caravaners themselves.
When Democrats and media commentators deride the enforcement of our immigration laws and border integrity as “racist,” they’re not only being dishonest, but also irresponsible. A Tijuana Health Department official recently told Fox News that 2,267 of the 6,000 caravaners are suffering from serious health issues, including four confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS; four cases of chickenpox; three cases of tuberculosis; and more than 100 skin infections and lice infestations.
Identifying and addressing health hazards is neither controversial or dehumanizing; in fact, it’s already required by law, and rightly so, for anyone seeking to immigrate to the United States to undergo evaluation to ensure they’re not exposing Americans to communicable diseases.
Sadly, the alarming health conditions within the caravan aren’t surprising.
Honduras, the birthplace of the current caravan, struggles to deal with an array of illnesses so dangerous that our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises prospective travelers to undergo multiple precautionary vaccinations before visiting the country.
Allowing caravaners with serious illnesses to enter the United States without the health certification required of those who seek to immigrate legally will expose Americans to disease risks from which our laws have been designed to protect them.
Beyond that sensible and lifesaving precaution, we must also, reasonably and rationally, take into account the cost of providing healthcare to thousands of people when our infrastructure is already strained. A 2018 report for Forbes prepared by Chris Conover, a scholar at Duke University’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, explains that Americans “cross-subsidize health care for unauthorized immigrants to the tune of $18.5 billion a year.”
Aside from the glaring fact that the Democrats’ signature healthcare law, Obamacare, has already added to the burdens on all of us who pay higher taxes and health-insurance premiums for our own medical care–shouldn’t we be devoting that $18.5 billion a year to assure that our veterans who’ve been neglected by the Veterans Administration, that President Trump’s working hard to reform, receive the care they’ve earned and deserve?
Democrats claim to care about aspiring immigrants, but taking a thoughtless approach to what should be an orderly process is actually a callous and cynical dereliction of responsibility to everyone involved:
–the caravaners who journey hundreds of miles on foot under perilous conditions;
–the communities in Mexico forced to harbor thousands of sick and desperate people who don’t belong there;
–the communities in the United States put at risk by those who enter illegally; –and all the Americans, like our veterans, who desperately need the resources that would be consumed in housing, feeding, educating, and providing for the short- and long-term needs of today’s caravaners as well as those who will be encouraged by their “success” to follow them in future.
True compassion requires that we fix our broken immigration system. We need laws, infrastructure, and processes that will allow aspiring migrants to enter our country in a fair and orderly way, and that will allow for the needs of Americans, rightly, to take priority.
President Trump understands this—but, as conscientious as he’s been, he can’t solve these problems on his own. Congress must act. The health and safety of our communities, and of those beyond our borders, depend on it.
Dr. Nan Hayworth is an ophthalmologist and former Congresswoman for New York’s 19th congressional district.