Monday, August 11, 2008

US Immigration Policy: A Hostage To Political Correctness

American immigration policy has always contained provisions for protecting the country from health and social threats from abroad. Still unchallenged are laws banning entry to criminals. Those with affiliation to organisations deemed subversive have likewise been banned in the past. Although the list of banned organisations has changed in composition, America at least recognises the possibility of security threats.
Part of every immigrant's passage through Ellis Island was a check for contagious diseases. Tuberculosis, syphilis and other serious contagious diseases sufficed as a reason for the immigration authorities to bar a person from entry to the United States.
AIDS is a disease that can be contained with expensive treatment. It remains incurable. Because it is caused by a virus, it is extremely adaptive. It has mutated in so many different ways that it is sometimes possible to identify a particular individual as a source of infection by the peculiarities of a particular viral strain. There are virulent strains that kill in 18 months and other strains that can be contained for years.
Because AIDS has hit homosexuals disproportionately in relation to other groups of AIDS sufferers, its discussion and treatment has become heavily politicised. Logic would dictate that it be treated by public health officials like syphilis and gonorrhea. In may jurisdictions, contact tracing was used to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. History of contact tracing AIDS is far more serious a threat than any of the previous venereal diseases of the past. There are countries in Africa where there is a social epidemic of AIDS orphans( article on AIDS orphans. ) The African experience provides America with a vivid illustration of the possible consequences of a widened AIDS epidemic.
President Bush quietly signed into law a bill that will remove AIDS from the list of diseases of which visitors to and immigrants to the United States must be free in order to gain entry to the US. AIDS activists support this measure. They cite the alleged difficulty with which AIDS is transmitted. It is in fact possible to transmit AIDS through a shared razor or toothbrush. A summer romance or a one night stand between a foreign tourist and an American are also not beyond the realm of consideration.They are also means of AIDS transmission. The only exception to a ban on a foreign visitor with AIDS should be a well supervised visit for the purpose of medical treatment.
America has compromised its borders and its security for reasons of political correctness. The technology and standing manpower exists to secure our borders. Military personnel that are now mothballed could be deployed on our borders. Heat and motion detectors as well as cameras could be used to optimise the deployment of professionals on the ground. Our foreign embassies continue to hire Arab locals for positions in which they are security risks. There are Coptic Christians and Mandaean Arab speakers who now suffer discrimination at the hands of Muslim Arab foreign employees of the U.S. government. These groups as well as Bahais who speak Farsi should be the trusted core of our foreign embassy staff in sensitive regions. They are fluent in local languages and grateful by virtue of their dhimmi status for America's civic equality of all faiths. Reclassifying AIDS as a disease that should not be flagged at America's ports of entry is the most recent of America's dangerous concessions to political correctness. Angry immigration activists, perpetually aggrieved Arabs and gay militants have each sought and received their respective nods to political correctness. Meanwhile, America seems to be suffering from a political version of AIDS, which leaves us unwilling to condemn and therefore protect ourselves from bizarre and suicidal ideologies that would if unchecked prove fatal to the American way of life. It seems that the latest foolishness to infect our immigration laws was buried in fine print and smuggled in a larger piece of legislation. This oversight should be flagged and corrected. It seems that not only suitcases and shipping containers, but legislation as well should be closely checked for dangers to our nation's security.

US Lifts immigration restrictions on those with AIDS

U.S. acts to open borders to foreigners with HIV

Hernán Rozemberg - Express-News

After more than two decades on the books, a little-known yet strictly enforced federal law barring foreigners with HIV or AIDS from entering the country is on its way out.

Tucked in a bill pledging $48 billion to combat the disease, signed into law by President Bush last week, was language stripping the provision from federal immigration law.

But that change didn't fully lift the entry ban on visitors with HIV or AIDS, which applies whether they're on tourist jaunts or seeking longer stays. 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. An April report from the Congressional Budget Office said that, based on information from HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV will be dropped from the list and new regulations will be in place in two years.

Both immigrant and HIV awareness advocates, however, say the toughest hurdle has been cleared, that the lifting of the immigration provision has been a long time coming — politics finally catching up with medical knowledge.

“Today everyone knows that you can't get AIDS from sitting next to someone on an airplane or sharing a bathroom — American policy should reflect this,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality, a New York-based advocacy group that has led a years-long campaign against the ban.

In San Antonio, people in the HIV/AIDS community welcomed the new law, but noted that plenty of people here had already circumvented the travel ban, since the area has been a long-standing destination for unauthorized immigrants.

Jan Patterson, an infectious disease specialist in San Antonio, agreed that the ban has no scientific underpinning.

When HIV first surfaced, researchers didn't know how it was transmitted, but it has long been widely known that HIV is not easily contracted and that even people with full-blown AIDS can live for a long time, said Patterson, who has taught for 15 years at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

In a speech before signing the law, President Bush emphasized that “HIV's deadly stigma” is still a societal obstacle because patients still don't receive mainstream acceptance.

Congressional support for lifting the travel ban was bipartisan and strong, but not unanimous. Leading the opposition was U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the top Republican in the House Judiciary Committee. He sent a missive to his colleagues titled “The bill threatens the health and lives of Americans.”

The e-mail cited the CBO's April report predicting that revoking the travel ban would allow an estimated 4,300 immigrants with HIV to enter the country in 2013, increasing to 5,600 by 2018. Smith's message left out the report's estimate of the public cost of treating these immigrants and their children between 2010 and 2018: $83 million.

Smith warned the disease has killed more than 500,000 Americans despite improved treatment and that allowing infected foreigners in would increase public risk.

The Family Focused AIDS Clinical Treatment and Services, a 2,000-patient clinic in San Antonio, offers services to anyone diagnosed with HIV whether they're in the country legally or not, said its director, Tracy Talley.

So immigrants, particularly from Mexico, have made their way across the border for years just to get treatment unavailable back home, Talley said.

Many of them are referred to the clinic through a nonprofit aid group in San Antonio, Mujeres Unidas Contra el SIDA or United Women Against AIDS. The group's director, Yolanda Rodríguez-Escobar, concurred with Talley that most HIV immigrants here are border-crossers who might never have heard of the travel exclusion.

They'd prefer to enter the country legally for treatment if given the option, said one of them. But in Mexico, the stigma of the disease is so great, those infected have always simply assumed their only immigration option is to go underground, he said.

“Everybody in Mexico knows that if you've got HIV, you might as well forget trying to get papers,” said Antonio, 41, an unauthorized immigrant with HIV in San Antoni.

Howard Wallen of New York tried to get papers to bring his wife into the country from Ethiopia, where he met her in 2002, later marrying her and having a daughter. They soon found out Abeba's HIV status prevented her from coming to the United States with him.

She eventually died from AIDS — an outcome that might have been different had she received therapy in the United States, Wallen said.

“She deserved the dignity of that chance,” he said.

The HIV prohibition issue stretches beyond U.S. borders. The 11,000-member International AIDS Society counts 67 countries restricting the entry or stay of HIV patients.

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