Tuesday, June 14, 2005

If another reason is needed to oppose illegal immigration, to which the Bush administration keeps turning a blind eye, how about spread of a deadly communicable disease?

According to an essay in the current Journal of the American Medical Association, a form of tuberculosis that has shown itself resistant to several drugs has invaded California and is present primarily in the state’s “foreign-born” population, a politically correct euphemism for illegal aliens.

Dr. Reuben Granich, a lead investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), writes that 18 to 24 months of treatment for multidrug-resistant TB, called MDR-TB, costs between $200,000 and $1.2 million per person.

The CDC’s Web page says TB was in decline in the United States, but that it increased between 1985 and 1992. Nearly 15,000 cases of TB were diagnosed last year, with California reporting the largest number of cases. Although total TB cases has declined in recent years, the study says the drug-resistant cases “did not significantly change over the study period,” causing concern among medical professionals.

The official administration position is that America welcomes the “foreign born” into this country, even those who have broken our laws to get here. We give their children free education supplied by law-abiding taxpayers and we give them free medical care at our hospitals, which is subsidized by legal residents through rising prices for health insurance and increased hospital costs (or the closing of hospitals, as is occurring in California).

Dr. Granich, who works for a federal agency and might be expected not to disagree with the Bush administration’s line on illegal immigrants, cannot tiptoe around the obvious. He writes those illegals found to have drug-resistant TB were mostly (84 percent) “foreign born” and were twice as likely to transmit the disease to others.

The study did not say the “foreign born” patients were illegal aliens. But what else is to be thought when the study specifies most came from Mexico or the Philippines and were in the U.S. less than five years when their infection was discovered?

Two years ago, 29 percent of TB cases in the U.S. were diagnosed among the “foreign born.” Last year that figure rose to 53 percent. The disease isn’t coming by wire transfer, but by human carriers crossing our borders. Dr. Granich says this highly communicable disease, transmitted mainly by coughing and sneezing, does not warrant closing the borders.

If the threats of terrorism and a contagious disease like TB are not enough to stop government harassment of native-born Americans at airports and cause a shutdown of illegal aliens flowing across our borders, what will it take?

Do politicians so crave the votes of people who break our laws and the approval of Mexican President Vicente Fox they are willing to jeopardize the health and welfare of the legally residing citizens of this country?

More of us seem interested in seeing that the laws are obeyed, even if government officials who are sworn to enforce them will not. In addition to the recent efforts by the “Minutemen Project,” whose members stationed themselves along the Arizona-Mexico border and reduced the flow of illegals to a trickle, the police chief of New Ipswich, N.H., has a novel idea.

W. Garrett Chamberlain, 36, is arresting illegal Mexican aliens on charges of trespassing. Chief Chamberlain told The Washington Post, “I’m just saying: ‘Wait a minute. We’re on heightened alert and it’s post-September 11, and I’m going to let an illegal immigrant who I don’t know from Adam just walk away? … If I find you are in my country illegally, I’m not going to worry about political correctness. I will detain you.” Let’s put Chief Chamberlain in charge of the Department of Homeland Security.

Illegal immigration is a political, social and medical issue that could come back to bite Republicans in the 2006 elections and in 2008 if they don’t get a grip on it.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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