Health Screening Is Yet Another Benefit to Keeping the Caravan in Tijuana

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 29, 2018

In my last post, I detailed the benefits of keeping the caravan of over 5,000 migrants, mostly from Central American countries, in Tijuana. Recent news brings a new one: health concerns amongst that group.

On November 29, 2018, Fox News reported, as its headline states: "One-third of migrants in caravan are being treated for health issues, Tijuana health official says". That article begins with a shocking claim: "Migrants who came with the caravan are suffering from respiratory infections, tuberculosis, chickenpox and other serious health issues, Tijuana's Health Department warned on Thursday morning."

Specifically, Fox News indicates that the health department spokesman stated that out of the 6,000 migrants who were in the city of Tijuana, "over a third of them (2,267) are being treated for health-related issues," including "three confirmed cases of tuberculosis, four cases of HIV/AIDS and four separate cases of chickenpox." In addition, more than 100 of those individuals have lice, and several have skin infections. While this is shocking, it is also somewhat unsurprising.

This particular caravan originated in Honduras, although not all of the migrants are Honduran. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides a webpage captioned: "Health Information for Travelers to Honduras, Clinician View". Among the vaccinations that CDC recommends travelers to Honduras obtain before leaving for that trip are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, rabies (particularly for children and outdoor explorers), and typhoid (especially for those travelers staying with friends and relatives, and visiting villages and rural areas where travelers could be exposed through food or water, as well as unspecified travelers "prone to 'adventurous eating'").

As I noted in a November 26 post:

Not to be too basic about the whole thing, but our immigration system is premised on the idea that foreign nationals are to be prescreened abroad, and that those who are eligible are given visas (either nonimmigrant or immigrant) to enter the United States if they are not otherwise inadmissible.

After that prescreening, they are screened again by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers before they are allowed into the United States. This two-level screening process ensures that aliens who are admitted to the United States are coming here for the purpose that they claim, that they are able to support themselves in this country, that they are not criminals, and that they do not pose a danger to the people of the United States (both citizens and nationals of the United States and other aliens lawfully admitted), among other grounds. People who claim that the immigration system is "broken" usually don't understand this process, or simply ignore it.

That is the rule, and it explains the expedited removal process well. If you want to come to the United States, get a visa and enter legally. If you fail to do so, Congress has stated, you should be removed as quickly as possible.

I failed to note in that post the first ground of inadmissibility to the United States: "health-related grounds" under section 212(a)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). That provision states, in pertinent part:

Any alien—

(i) who is determined (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services) to have a communicable disease of public health significance; 

(ii) except as provided in subparagraph (C), who seeks admission as an immigrant, or who seeks adjustment of status to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and who has failed to present documentation of having received vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases, which shall include at least the following diseases: mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza type B and hepatitis B, and any other vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices,

(iii) who is determined (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Attorney General)—

(I) to have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others, or

(II) to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior, or

(iv) who is determined (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services) to be a drug abuser or addict, is inadmissible.

The referenced exception relates to adopted children 10 years of age or younger, and there is a waiver of these grounds in section 212(g) of the INA. Again, that waiver is generally sought through the visa and admissions process.

This is not some novel ground of inadmissibility promulgated by the Trump administration. As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy Manual states:

Public health concerns have been reflected in U.S. immigration law since the Immigration Act of 1882. Among others, "persons suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease" were not allowed to enter the United States.

Or, to put it in more popular terms, this was the ground for which young Vito Corleone was detained upon his arrival in the United States in 1901 in The Godfather Part II, as the University of Michigan helpfully points out in its "The Godfather Timeline Expanded Summary", which states: "At Ellis Island Vito's name is officially changed to Vito Corleone. He is quarantined for three months because he has small pox."

Plainly, treating the caravan migrants for their various diseases and ailments puts a strain on Mexican government authorities, but at least it puts in place a screening process for those third-country nationals before they come to the United States. The cost of care also provides an incentive for the Mexican government to enforce its own southern border.

This latter point is not meant to be flippant or dismissive. It has been my experience that transit countries generally act in their own interest as it relates to third-country nationals who are passing through their territory, and Mexico is no different.

Moreover, Mexico's enforcement of its southern border will have an additional benefit as it relates to both that country and potential migrants: It will limit corruption and protect the migrants' safety. In an October 25, 2018, post captioned "An Incredibly Violent Journey to the United States, The perils of illegal immigration", I talked about a "report ... by Doctors Without Borders (commonly known by its French acronym "MSF") ... captioned 'Forced to Flee Central America's Northern Triangle: A Neglected Humanitarian Crisis'".

Among the findings I referenced was the following:

MSF patients reported that the perpetrators of violence included members of gangs and other criminal organizations, as well as members of the Mexican security forces responsible for their protection. [Emphasis added.]

Deterring aliens from undertaking the risky journey through Mexico by Mexican border enforcement will prevent the harms that MSF report describes, and remove incentives for Mexican security forces to engage in abuses.

It will also reduce the number of aliens claiming credible fear in the United States.