National Data | Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor … Your Infectious Diseases?
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Illegal aliens are, by Federal law, entitled to free emergency health care, and many states provide non-emergency care as well. The cost to U.S. taxpayers exceeds $1 billion in border hospitals alone.

But a potentially more onerous—even deadly—burden lurks in the infectious diseases that many illegals bring with them. Diseases once thought eradicated in the U.S. have reappeared courtesy of the post-1965 influx.

The Centers For Disease Control reports that illegal immigrants account for over 65 percent of communicable diseases (TB, hepatitis, leprosy, AIDS, etc.) in the U.S. Of course, immigration officials are supposed to screen out applicants for legal immigration who are carrying diseases. But illegals slip over the border unchecked. [Marty Nemko, "The Overwhelming of America."]

There are seven thousand registered cases of leprosy in the US, for example.

Each year some 300 new cases of leprosy are identified in the United States. The vast majority of these patients are immigrants who acquired the disease in their home countries. [MSN Encarta]

Tuberculosis is generally regarded as the most common infectious disease found in immigrants. More than half (53.4 percent) of all TB cases reported in 2003 involved foreign-born persons. [Table 1.]

The disparity between native and immigrant TB rates increased significantly over the past decade:

  • TB cases among U.S. natives fell from 17,464 in 1993 to 8,903 in 2003, a 49 percent decline—but TB cases among immigrants rose from 7,354 in 1993 to 7,902 in 2003, a 7.5 percent increase
  • The TB case rate for immigrants in 2003 (23.6 per 100,000 population) was nearly ten-times that of natives (2.7 per 100,000 population)
  • Immigrant children are at least 100 times more likely to be infected than children born in the U.S. [William M. Stauffer, MD, et al., "Medical Screening of Immigrant Children," Clinical Pediatrics, November-December, 2003.]

However, the risk posed to Americans is potentially far greater than these numbers might suggest:

  • Approximately 7 million foreign-born persons are infected with TB, although most are not active cases.
  • It can take years for the symptoms to present themselves.

Even worse, the form of TB most common among illegal aliens is a drug-resistant type—with a higher death rate than cancer.

California has the largest TB caseload – 3,205 reported cases in 2003. More than three-quarters (75.6 percent) were foreign-born. Texas and Arizona are also among the top ten in active TB cases. [Table 2.]

But the TB problem is no longer confined to the border states.

In northern Virginia, for example, foreign-born residents accounted for 92 percent of the new TB cases in 2000. [Marvene O'Rourke, "Transnational Crime: A New Health Threat for Corrections," Corrections Today, February 2002.]  Prince Georges County, Virginia, reported a staggering 188 percent rise in TB cases in 2002. Health officials attributed it to illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Queens, NY, Portland, Maine, Del Ray Beach, Florida, Minnesota, and Michigan have also reported TB outbreaks linked to recently arrived immigrants.

A particularly heart-rending mode of disease transmission: foreign children adopted by U.S. parents.

Fewer than half of children adopted from orphanages in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe are found to have protective anti-bodies to polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough—despite records purporting to show proper immunization.  

Immigration, even in its most compassionate form, may be bad for our health.

[Number fans click here for tables.]

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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