Monday, May 15, 2006

Illegals, Tuberculosis, and Public Health

One concern often overlooked by pro-illegal alien supporters is public health and safety. When most immigrants were coming to the U.S. via Ellis Island, it was routine to medically examine all applicants for entry into the country for infectious disease. Those who were a health risk to the general population were refused admittance. After all, our citizens depend upon our government to promote our welfare.

Illegal aliens can bring with them diseases that we had all but eradicated from our domain. Virulent stains of tuberculosis are making a comeback in our nation, for example. Some of these strains are resistant to antibiotics, and spread easily. My doctor told me that a teacher had tested positive recently, having caught tuberculosis from one of her students.

Illegal immigrants have no health insurance and no means to pay for services. Hospitals are loathe to send someone in need away, so they often end up providing services for free. Of course, nothing is ever really free. Services are only free to the one receiving the service. Someone else pays. That's something to think about when we complain about the high costs of medical care. Those hospitals that cannot make up for the financial losses with the help of paying customers have been going bankrupt and closing, making it harder for people in some areas to obtain appropriate care.

In the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Katrina S. Firlik describes an experience with an illegal immigrant with an advanced case of a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis in Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. Not only did this man have the disease, requiring an extensive hospital stay, strong and expensive drugs, and a risky operation, but all his friends and family tested positive for TB. They were all working in the food service industry there in town.

Hospitals closing, school children exposed to harmful, possibly incurable diseases, healthcare costs skyrocketing for taxpayers and average citizens---all this and more are outcomes of our failed border control. Maybe if we think hard about what it would mean to experience a return to the sanitariums of the past where tuberculosis patients were housed until they died to keep the rest of the population in relative safety, the whole issue of illegals coming into our nation with no background checks or medical examinations would become crystal clear. We must secure our borders. We cannot afford not to.

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