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Swine Flu is Not About Illegal Immigration   April 27th, 2009
Trying to make swine flu about illegal immigration does not make sense       

 
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My positions on illegal immigration are pretty clear. I think we need to defend and enforce our border in a serious way, I think illegals should probably be subject to some jail time before being deported, I think there should be significant fines levied against companies that hire illegals, I don't believe amnesty is acceptable, and I think English should be the official language. In other words, I wouldn't consider myself "soft" on illegal immigration.

However, this morning I heard Peter Boyles on the radio essentially trying to make the argument that the current swine flu situation is just another example or reason why we should secure our borders against illegal immigration. He made the comment that since there were apparent outbreaks in Texas and San Diego that obviously that was caused by some illegal bringing it. Presumably his argument is that if our border was secure and we didn't have an illegal immigration problem that we wouldn't be confronting the swine flu problem in the U.S.

I sent Peter Boyles an email about this but I also felt compelled to write something here. Trying to link swine flu to illegal immigration is a red herring that does a disservice to the valid reasons to oppose illegal immigration.

First, we don't know that an illegal brought the flu to San Diego or San Antonio. In fact, the majority of illegal immigration is supposedly through the Arizona border--yet as of this morning there haven't been any cases reported in Arizona. And my understanding is that the cases in Texas were at a school in Cibolo, which suggests to me that it's more likely that families in Cibolo visited Mexico and brought it back... again, that's probably not the work of illegals. I don't know who got sick in San Diego but thousands of Mexicans and Americans travel back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. legally on a daily basis.

For these reasons it is simply jumping to unsupported conclusions to suggest that these U.S. cases were due to illegal immigrants. It's not impossible, but on balance it seems at least as likely as being due to legal movement between the countries.

Second, we have at least a small outbreak in NY that apparently was due to a group of U.S. schoolchildren that had recently returned legally from Mexico. (Update same afternoon: That "small outbreak" from students legally returning from Mexico turns out to currently be the largest outbreak in the country, 28 out of 40 confirmed cases). That means that even if our border was 100% secure against illegals, we have at least one case of people legally returning from Mexico bringing the flu. All it takes is one person bringing it into the country, and the NY cases seem to confirm that the flu entered "legally." And that's all it takes.

A weak argument could be made if we had detected the threat before even a single person had returned from Mexico and if we completely sealed the border and refused all air access from Mexico. Then if someone entered illegally with the virus we could blame it on illegal immigration. But the border and airports are still open to legal travel to and from Mexico so it's absurd to try to put the blame for the swine flu at the feet of illegals. There's far more legal travel between the two countries than illegal, so by what logic do we blame illegals? Statistical probability alone would suggest that the flu was transported by legal travelers.

Finally, even if we completely sealed the border so that no-one could travel between Mexico and the U.S. (both legally and illegally), we already have a case reported in Spain and another in New Zealand. That means that most likely there will be an outbreak in those countries. So even sealing the border between Mexico and the U.S. would not be enough because someone could become infected in New Zealand or Spain and then travel to the U.S.

The only way to completely wall ourselves off from something like this is to ban travel from all places where the virus has been reported; and ban travel from all places where people have traveled after visiting an outbreak location. In reality, the only way to wall ourselves off is to literally prohibit all international travel to the U.S. Sealing the border with Mexico might delay things by a few days, but as the cases in New Zealand and Spain show, it's just a matter of time before it gets here. Even if it has to travel by way of Europe or the South Pacific.

The reality is, it's already here. The children in New York brought the flu into the country completely legally. And, most likely, many others have done the same already, their cases just aren't known yet.

Blaming illegal immigrants for bringing the swine flu to the U.S. is akin to liberals that blamed everything on Bush. Illegal immigration provokes legitimate problems, but the swine flu is not one of them. I honestly think that trying to blame illegals for the swine flu does a great disservice to the many legitimate reasons to oppose illegal immigration.

    Update Later Same Morning: I haven't heard anyone other than Peter Boyles insinuate anything yet, but in case it's coming... Regardless of what one might think of President Obama or DHS Secretary Napolitano, any potential swine flu epidemic or pandemic in the U.S. isn't their fault, either. It's already too late since there are cases in the U.S., but the only thing that could have been done to insulate us from the virus is a complete ban on all international travel--and possibly commerce--to the U.S. for the duration any such outbreak overseas. If this becomes a worldwide epidemic or pandemic, such a ban would probably have to last at least for months. That's simply not realistic, and certainly wasn't realistic a week ago when such a ban would've had to have been implemented. They would have had to ban all travel (and possibly commerce) at a point in time when it wasn't even clear that this could be a major threat. And such a ban would have had to include preventing Americans in Mexico from returning home.

    The best thing we can do is take our vitamins to maintain our defenses and to wash our hands frequently. As usual it's up to the individual to take care of the individual. It's fantasy to believe the government could ever prevent a determined virus from reaching the U.S. There's nothing Napolitano or Obama could ever do to stop it from getting here.

    Update Later Same Afternoon: The World Health Organization has stated essentially the same thing, that it's too late to consider efforts to contain the virus and that the emphasis must be on mitigation.

    The group also agreed to focus on mitigating the effects of the outbreak instead of trying to contain it.

    'This virus is too widespread to make containment a feasible operation,' Fukuda said.

    Many experts think it may be impossible to contain a flu virus already spreading in several countries.

    The WHO did not recommend closing borders or restricting travel because it would have little effect, if any, on stemming the spread of infection.

    Update 5:50pm: Those against illegal immigration aren't the only ones using the swine flu for political reasons. President Obama is doing it too.



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