Give Us Your Sick, Your Dying...

Just what we need: immigrants with AIDS.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

  - Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

Perhaps the most powerful image around the world of what America is, is the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  In the days of mass transatlantic immigration, countless thousands' first glimpse of their new home was that great torch lifted up as a beacon of hope.

Shortly thereafter, they got their first experience of their new home, on Ellis Island.  As its name implies, this great port of entry is an island: it's quite difficult to get into the rest of the country from Ellis Island without permission.

Despite the legends, America was pretty picky about whom we allowed in.  We accepted millions of impoverished peasants, you didn't have to be wealthy or well-educated, but you did have to be healthy, sane, and of sound mind.  Over the years, more than a quarter-million prospective immigrants who'd made it within sight of their destination were summarily rejected and sent back from whence they came.

There are many good reasons for rejecting a particular applicant, but by far the most obvious one is disease.  Every disease known to man, and some that weren't, showed up at Ellis Island.  With the country's most densely populated city a scant few yards across the harbor, only a fool would allow in typhoid, tuberculosis, trachoma, or many other deadly germs.  There's no telling how many American lives were saved by the vigilant doctors of Ellis Island.

In our modern world of medicine where most people assume that most diseases can be cured by a quick pill, we may have forgotten the horrors of deadly epidemics.  Few Americans, though, are unaware of the epidemic of health-care cost increases; it's been a major source of voter anger for quite some time.  Anything that needlessly raises health care costs should be avoided like the plague, even more so when a great many people fervently believe that the government should provide health care for all at taxpayer expense regardless of citizenship.

What, then, are we to make of George Bush's latest immigration insanity?  UPI reports:

A federal law banning foreigners with HIV or AIDS from entering the United States is coming to an end.  President Bush recently signed a bill giving $48 billion to fighting the disease that also removes the visitor provision from U.S. immigration law.

We have a much better understanding of AIDS today than we did twenty years ago.  Readers may remember the early fears of catching the deadly virus from casual contact, toilet seats, sneezing, and all manner of common means.  It's now pretty clear that these concerns are unfounded; AIDS is passed on by intimate or medical contact and not much else.  It's not really necessary for people suffering from AIDS to be quarantined as once we did with the tuberculoid.

Does that mean we don't care about immigrants with AIDS?  AIDS can be managed, yes, but at great expense.  The World Bank says that AIDS treatment costs more than $10,000 per patient per year.  That is a lot of money, and as any number of studies have shown, more than a third of immigrants have no health insurance.

It's against the law for hospitals to turn away patients; people with AIDS aren't going to stay away from doctors forever.  Therefore, for every three AIDS-infected immigrants we allow in under this new policy, you will be stuck with the bill for treating one of them.  This is a good idea?

The San Antonio Express-News reports the Congressional Budget Office estimate of the costs: $83 million.  Don't we have better ways to spend our money?  Haven't estimates of future medical costs always proven to be way too low?

It gets worse.  One of the reasons there is no cure for AIDS is because it is highly mutable - it tends to change itself to resist drug therapies.  The only way to deal with AIDS is by using a "cocktail" of a whole bunch of different drugs which must be taken at precise times, for the rest of your life.  Is there any likelihood of all emergency rooms being able to administer such complex treatments effectively?  No.

As we've seen with drug-resistant tuberculosis, when an AIDS patient botches their drug regimen, it makes it more likely that their AIDS virus will mutate into a drug-resistant form... and kill others who might have been saved by the drugs that no longer work.  That's why it's worthwhile for Bush to have spent billions on AIDS prevention in Africa - we don't want more virulent forms of AIDS mutating over there and then coming over here.  It's simple common sense that we don't want carriers of the virus coming over either.

Why, then, is Mr. Bush going against twenty years of policy and centuries of wisdom by rolling out a welcome mat for carriers of one of the world's most feared diseases?  If he had to go through Ellis Island himself, he'd be rejected on grounds of insanity.

There's only one ray of light in this travesty, as the Express-News goes on to say:

The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services still needs to delete HIV from the agency's list of "communicable diseases of public health significance," which includes tuberculosis, gonorrhea and leprosy. An HHS spokeswoman declined to comment, noting administrators are still reviewing the new law.

They'd better be.  If HIV isn't a "communicable disease of public health significance," it's hard to imagine what is.  When 80% of American voters are already furious about the illegal alien problem, one shudders to think of their reaction to news of a flood of deadly-disease-ridden aliens.

Give us your sick, your dying, your huddled masses yearning to be treated free...

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Immigration.
Reader Comments
in my various posts here at scragged I have oft repeated my pro open immigration stance. I have to say however, that allowing people with AIDS into the country is simply crazy. It is important for any country to try to maintain as disease free a population as possible. While kicking out American citizens to decrease the diseased population seems both cruel and wrong, allowing more people in seems even worse.

As a side note on rising health care costs. I've often wondered what it would do to cost to the consumer if hospitals didn't have to accept people that couldn't pay, how many more people could pay under those circumstances and how many more people would die as a result.
August 16, 2008 11:40 AM
Looks like nobody cares, the Feds went ahead and did the first step anyway. Consulates can now easily issue "waivers" to let HIV+ people in.
September 29, 2008 5:35 PM
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