Two threads of the same news cycle came together Monday when Republican Rep. Todd Rokita suggested some of the migrant kids might have Ebola. Before you read any further, please note: Ebola does not exist in Central America, as several doctors told NBC News.
Rokita, who will likely later tell us he's not a scientist, made his comments during an appearance on a local radio show. According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, Rokita was quoting a comment made by fellow G.O.P. lawmaker Rep. Larry Buschon, when he embellished a little and said:
He said, look, we need to know just from a public-health standpoint, with Ebola circulating and everything else — no, that's my addition to it, not necessarily his — but he said we need to know the condition of these kids.
Rokita isn't the first person to float this theory. Last month G.O.P. Rep. Phil Gingrey told MSNBC that Ebola was one of the diseases the border patrol is concerned about, adding “I can’t tell you specifically that there were any cases of Ebola, I don’t think there were, but of course Tuberculosis, Chagas disease, many – small pox, some of the infectious diseases of children, all of these are concerns.”
According to NBC, Tuberculosis is one disease migrants kids might have, but they are screened and vaccinated within days of being detained. Also, if anything kids from other countries should be worried about the preventable diseases they'll catch here — the U.S. has a 92 percent vaccination rate. Mexico has a 99 percent rate, while Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have 93 percent rates.
The reason for all the fear mongering is that treating unaccompanied migrant kids like little disease riddled epidemics waiting to happen is one of the last socially "acceptable" ways to express xenophobic opinions without saying something explicitly racist. “There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners,” Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center told NBC News. The countries of origin and deadly diseases may change, but the sentiments are the same.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.