Immigrants: Disease-Ridden or a Lot of Hype?

From time to time, I take time away from my book writing duties and my regular column writing to address the concerns and comments from readers. I get it all. I get some thoughtful, linearly constructed arguments and then I get the circularly argued ones that make my head spin just trying to figure out where they are coming from and what exactly they are trying to say.

But I like them all (readers are who keep me syndicated in more than 21 publications), I try to learn from most, and take some time, on occasion, to try to answer them. Trying to answer them usually ends with my doing what good writers do-check, recheck, and then double check the sources the readers claim prove their points. I do investigative reporting!

So here goes, ready or not, hold on, and let’s see what we have to discuss today.

Reader Comment One: “âÂ?¦ and more terrifying are the thousands of cases of TB and hepatitis they (migrant Mexican workers) spread into Los Angeles.”

I contacted the Center for Disease Control and spoke with Jessica Frickey, Health Communications Specialist. Ms. Frickey said this:

“I am attaching CDC’s most recent fact sheet on 2004 TB surveillance data. You will see that while TB was at an all time low in 2004, progress to eliminate the disease may be slowing.

As far as your specific question about illegal immigrants causing a rise in TB, CDC’s data shows that foreign-born individuals – whether illegal immigrants or legal immigrants – accounted for more than half of TB cases reported in 2004. Overall, racial and ethnic minorities also face higher rates of disease than white Americans, with both Hispanics and Blacks at a rate that is 8 times higher than whites and Asians 20 times higher than whites.

Despite these numbers, CDC does not have data to show that foreign-born individuals have caused an increase in TB in recent years.”

What I find so interesting is that this reader’s comment,

“âÂ?¦the thousands of cases of TB and hepatitis they (migrant Mexican workers) spread into Los Angeles.”,

was spouted with absolutely NO stats to support the supposition. His figure, “thousands of cases”, when the REALITY is that in the year 2004 was at an all time low. I wonder just where this reader got his facts. And do not miss the fact of what Ms. Frickey pointed out:

“As far as your specific question about illegal immigrants causing a rise in TB, CDC’s data shows that foreign-born individuals – whether illegal immigrants or legal immigrants – accounted for more than half of TB cases reported in 2004.”

The rate of tuberculosis among Asians was the highest group. Does this mean that this reader and his Minuteman-like comrades will be going after the Asians next and then all foreign-born people whether illegal or legal?

Does it not beg the question?

Why, do you think, and I have most certainly wondered, do people who so vehemently oppose a racial or cultural group resort to making such sweeping generalizations without much substance to back their positions?

I’ve decided to do a series of columns on this very issue with specific application to the Mexican Migrant worker problem. And yes, believe it or not, I think it is a problem that has to be solved. However, having said that, I do not think it is the problem the Minuteman-like minions would have you believe it to be. I think they have different motives, which I hope to prove in my series in the coming weeks.

Until then, let me suggest something at this juncture for your kind consideration. The reason Americans, no matter the issue, and especially with regard to people of different race and culture (and politics for that matter) will resort to such emotive blustering and grandiose exaggerations such as,
“Just look what all those thousands of disease-ridden illegal Mexicans are spreading all over our country.”
is that Americans, at least in my view (remember this is an Opinion-Editorial piece-so don’t get all twisted into a knot), have very poorly defined “Phony-Boloney” detectors–More on that to come!

Meanwhile, get your printer cartridges filled, get a notebook and pen, you will want to print and take notes and cherish what I am going to say for decades to come (I just made up that last part so I could say something witty to end this serious piece and make my editorial word count.).

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