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Swine Flu Has Nothing To Do With Illegal Immigration

Claudia Meléndez Salinas |
April 29, 2009 | 9:13 p.m. PDT

Claudia Melendez

Honestly, I wanted to write about something important, like the fact that the Supreme Court listened to arguments Wednesday about whether to uphold or overturn a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The provision in question requires states and local governments with a history of discrimination to get "preclearance" before changing election laws. Not surprisingly, the conservative-packed Court sharply criticized the section and hinted at the possibility of them overturning it. That's how socially progressive legislation gets dismantled: you chip at it little by little.

But instead of dwelling on such far-reaching and important news developments, let me turn instead to the news of the day and its predictable reaction from the nativist community. Sorry, this is too big a temptation to pass up. In Juan Luis Guerra terms, the story is mango bajito -- low hanging fruit.

By now, if you haven't heard or read that there's a swine flu outbreak in Mexico, perhaps you're living in the Colbert space station. If you don't know that the outbreak is wreaking havoc in the country, where pedestrians can be seen wearing masks, restaurant patrons have been ordered to take food to go and schools will be closed for at least a week, you probably need to stop watching Hulu.  Yes, all those precautions have been placed into effect, even though the director of the National Center for the Control of Illnesess and Epidemic Vigilance admitted to Spanish daily El Pais that wearing masks is as futile as panicking. The masks "porosity would allow particles to go through easily; besides, it's very unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through air without touching surfaces," he was quoted in El Pais (my translation). In other words, if a person sneezes into the air, and the air does not touch anything, the virus dies. If the sneeze reaches a keyboard or a doorhandle and somebody else comes along, touches the infected surface and then brings her or his hands to the mouth, then we're talking trouble. In other words, people should wash their hands constantly, just like they would do with any other outbreak of the flu.

So far, I'm not writing anything you probably already don't know. It's been in the news all over the world 24/7 since last week. Jon Stewart did a hilarious piece about the alarmist tone the cable news networks have adopted.  It's fever pitch, literally and figuratively.

What you probably haven't seen is that the nativist, the enlightened segment of the population that believes undocumented immigrants are to blame for everything that is ailing this country, are now blaming the poorest, most vulnerable segment of our community for...

Yes, you guessed it. Swine flu. Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring, a national conservative advocacy organization, wrote in a column posted at CNN's Anderson Cooper's blog that "While the swine flu can easily be spread by vacationers or business travelers, the movement of millions of illegal immigrants across an international border threatens to transmit the disease on a mass scale. Our border security and public health infrastructures are unprepared and ill-equipped for this contingency."

Never mind that undocumented immigrants don't go back and forth so easily, mainly because they don't know if they're going to be able to return. Never mind that the students at St. Francis Preparatory in New York who have been infected traveled back and forth south of the border perfectly legally for their spring break.

Europe, not precisely known for its illegal immigration from Mexico,
has three confirmed cases: two in Spain and one in Scotland. Other
cases are suspected in Denmark, Sweden, Greece, the Czech Republic,
Germany, Italy and Ireland. Israel, Canada and New Zealand also have
confirmed cases. According to the Wall Street Journal, all of the
patients recently returned from Mexico. And believe me, it's not like
the virus asks potential victims to see their documents. Amigo, can I
hitch a ride with you to Houston? I have a pandemic to break.

I'm not going to deny that a potential flu outbreak of global proportions is a cause for concern, but even our own Prez said in his Wednesday news conference that
shutting the border with Mexico would be the equivalent of closing the
barn after the horses have escaped. The H1N1 virus is here, kids, and
the best way to guard against it is to wash your hands constantly and
stay away from sneezing folks -- regardless of their legal status.




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