Republican congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in which he listed unsubstantiated claims that the immigrant children coming across the Mexico-US border were unvaccinated carriers of disease.
Mother Jones reported July 14 that Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), an avid anti-immigration conservative, stated that there were reports that the undocumented immigrant children, some of which are being temporarily housed for processing and almost assured deportation back to the Central American nations from which they fled, were carriers of swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis.
"Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning," the congressman wrote. "Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles."
What is particularly troubling about Gingrey's letter is that he is a physician by trade. And then there's the claims he makes, which have no substantiation in fact, a sort of urban myth kind of support system -- like when Rep. Michele Bachmann told her story on the "Today" show about the woman who said the HPV vaccine had caused her child to become "mentally retarded." Add to that the fact that Rep. Gingrey is an advocate of not vaccinating children from certain diseases himself.
As Mother Jones noted, the congressman has himself pushed legislation to discourage some kinds of mandatory vaccinations in the United States. He has a long-standing relationship with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a far-right medical group that opposes all mandatory vaccines.
Besides, there has never been an Ebola virus outbreak in the Americas where humans contracted the pathogen. (However, there was an outbreak at a medical holding facility for test monkeys in Reston, Virginia, where a variant strain, Ebola Reston, was discovered. No humans were infected during that outbreak.)
At present, there is a catastrophic outbreak of the Ebola virus in western Africa. In fact, it is the worst outbreak in history and just recently topped 600 in dead, according to Reuters. The disease, however, is so far relegated to the nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
According to the CDC, the Ebola virus is actually a family of viruses and are some of the world's most dangerous pathogens. Hemorhaggic fevers, they generally present with influenza-like symptoms and progress to massive internal bleeding. Contraction of Ebola is fatal more often as not.
If his pestering the CDC with a letter that carries spurious information wasn't time-wasting and ignorant enough, Gingrey was also wrong about those diseased immigrant children. The Texas Observer reported that not only are Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran children (the Central American nations the children are primarily from) more likely to be vaccinated than their counterparts in the United States, but NBC News reported that many of the immigrants are carrying their medical records with them to the U.S.
It would appear that Rep. Phil Gingrey has conflated the very real crisis in Africa with the immigrant children situation slash border security concerns presently affecting the Mexico-US border. But doing so is not only distracting, it places the congressman at the forefront of irresponsible fearmongering in his efforts to push for stronger border security and stricter immigration reforms. He joins, among others, fellow Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in brandishing fear and ludicrous responses to the current border security and immigrant children situation.
Last week, congressman Gohmert said that President Obama should send troops into Mexico to stop the immigrants and the drugs. He also stated that terrorists were using the border to get into the United States, a claim that he said was informed by unnamed border officials.