I can’t say I was so much surprised to come across this Fox News story as I was dismayed. With a title like “Ebola outbreak fuels concerns over health risks along US-Mexico border,” you’d figure there would be some kind of, well, um, reality to the “concerns,” right? Alas, no.
The article turned out to be an exercise in juxtaposing completely unrelated things and claiming that because people are irrationally worried about them (or, worse, using them to further a heinous political opinion) both they must somehow be related.
Republican Phil Gingrey (R- Georgia) wrote to the Centers for Disease Control asking about immigrants potentially bringing in ebola. Putting aside the desperate need for a simple geography lesson (the ebola virus outbreak is happening in West Africa, and, no, that’s not the same as Mexico, even if the people in both those areas are all less white than you are), what’s worse is how the article positions the non-issue as an issue. It states, “No case of an illegal immigrant carrying Ebola has been reported. But several reports have surfaced, including in a recent inspector general review, of other health issues connected to the surge along the U.S.-Mexico border.” What issues? The children of a Border Patrol agent getting chicken pox after being exposed to a child who had the illness. Chicken pox. You know… just like ebola, except without the bleeding and the dying. Chicken pox, the childhood illness so mild that suburban moms used to have chicken pox parties just to get the rite of passage over with. Trying to conflate the two without proof or even all that much logic is racist and hate-mongering in the extreme.
To set the record straight, the Centers for Disease Control have reported exactly zero cases of ebola in the entire Western hemisphere (except the American two aid workers brought to Atlanta for treatment after contracting it in West Africa). Ebola kills so swiftly that, in the highly unlikely chance that an immigrant sick with it were to attempt the dangerous (and lengthy) border crossing, he or she would most likely be dead well before arriving in the U.S. Also, should ebola make it to our shores, it would be much more likely do so on a plane. The anti-immigrant voices are trying to connect the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border with the fear about a far-away virus, much as they successfully (and erroneously) did with terrorism in the early 200os.
It was a similar statement by a hate-radio DJ in the mid-2000s that galvanized me to start speaking out about my story. So while this kind of thing infuriates me, it energizes me to keep speaking out. As long as people will use fear and ignorance to keep us divided, those of us with better intentions must keep raising our voices.