By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate
The flooding of Central American immigrants brings many concerns to Americans and has been the forerunner for debate over the past several weeks. However, a matter that has been put on the backburner is the risk of a public health crisis that could quickly unfold after immigrants pass through to the United States.
60,000 illegal immigrants have come into the United States over the past nine months. Each immigrant undergoes a similar procedure once they reach Border Patrol, which typically consists of a health and safety screening before they reach a detention center. Due to the excess amount of immigrants coming into the country at such a fast pace, it is evident that proper screenings cannot be successfully carried out in an efficient amount of time.
Border Patrol agents rely heavily on the results from verbal and visual inspections. These inspections warrant the risk of missing the diseases that do not turn up from physical appearance.
According to the health care policy of the United States, any communicable diseases must be assessed and treated before immigrants reach the ground within the United States. The Department of Homeland Security prohibits any immigrants carrying “a communicable disease of public health significance” from entering the country. That may seem simple enough but what is not obvious is that immigrants who do not show proof of vaccination from diseases are prohibited from entering the United States by law.
The CDC regulations require a very specific medical exam when immigrants enter the country. “During the exam, applicants are required to show proof that they have received certain vaccines. If an applicant does not have proof of having received the required vaccines, the law states that the vaccines must be given at the time of the medical exam.”
The immigrants who travel great lengths and experience life-threatening events before reaching the border are not expected to carry documents for proof of vaccination. It is up to the judgment of Border Patrol agents to decide whether or not an immigrant receives vaccination.
The problem continues to expand, literally, because immigrants are sent to areas beyond the border towns. Immigrant officials no longer have space in the detention centers located in the states along the border. The detention centers create more health concerns, as the immigrants are forced to eat, sleep and wash in the same areas. The crowded facilities leave officials no other choice but to send the immigrants elsewhere.
If immigrants are not properly vaccinated, scattering immigrants in different areas of the country will only increase the rapid spread of disease. Once diseases are dispersed throughout the country, confining and treating the diseases becomes almost impossible.