The Swine Flu Outbreak and Immigration: News Analysis From Feet in Two Worlds

No face masks anywhere in Mexico City. (Photo: Diego Graglia)

No face masks anywhere in Mexico City. (Photo: Diego Graglia)

By John Rudolph, FI2W Executive Producer

With Mexico presumed to be at the epicenter of the swine flu outbreak and Mexicans comprising one of the largest immigrant groups in the U.S., it didn’t take long for people to start making connections between the flu and immigration. Officials in Dallas and San Diego are reaching out to large Mexican immigrant communities in those cities with advice on how to prevent the possible spread of the disease. According to San Diego station KFMB-TV:

Health officials are concerned about the spread of swine flu from Mexico to the U.S. by illegal immigrants. Migrants in San Diego may not have access to medical care, which could lead to the spread of the virus within those communities.

In another related development, the L.A. Times reports that fear of infection is causing immigrants living north of the border to reconsider returning to or visiting Mexico.

At least one member of Congress, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) recently called for the complete closure of the U.S.–Mexico border “until the virus is contained.”  Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California, has called for a U.S. ban on all nonessential travel to Mexico.

Meanwhile, conservative bloggers and commentators are blaming the flu outbreak on “illegal aliens” and using the health threat to advance their call for sealing America’s borders.

And so in addition to legitimate public health concerns (some of them related to immigrants from Mexico), the flu outbreak has spawned a nasty war of words over immigrants and their place in American society. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is widely quoted on the Web for her comment, “Hey, maybe we’ll finally get serious about borders now.” Pro-immigrant columnists have responded to Malkin and others with equally blunt language. The headline of a blog post by Bonnie Fuller on Huffington Post screams, “Hate-Mongering Conservative Commentators Using Swine Flu to Promote Racism!”

The flu scare comes just as the Obama administration is ramping up efforts to bring about immigration reform. In addition, on Friday pro-immigrant rallies are planned in cities across the nation to keep pressure on the president and Congress to address the plight of undocumented immigrants.

The vitriolic exchange kicked off by the flu outbreak certainly won’t help efforts to reach a national consensus on immigration policy. It also won’t help anyone who has the flu or is at risk of becoming ill. But could it have an impact on the pace and scope of immigration reform efforts? Maybe. Has it revealed new racial fault lines following Obama’s historic election as the nation’s first African-American president? Perhaps. Do we have any idea where this is all headed? In both medical and political terms the answer to that question unfortunately is no.


  1. Deport Em

    It would be foolish NOT to consider that illegals are bringing the virus to the US. Many break into this country illegally every day, so why is it racist to think sick Mexicans are entering? They don’t care about our laws so why would they care if they spread a disease. This really should start another debate on when the US will take seriously the illegal immigration invasion and enforcement of our laws.

  2. Vicente Duque

    These accusations are just simple Imbecility and Stupidity. Only an idiot wastes time advancing these theories.

    Keith Olbermann of MSNBC is calling them the Pigots of Pigotry.



    Fox News “Special Report” : The Zombie, The Mummy and the Black Guy – Positive Development

    There is a positive development in a Fox News Program called “Special Report” … In today’s edition of April 29 of 2009.

    I regularly watch this program in order to combat my big problem of insomnia.

    Because there is a Zombie called Charles Krauthammer, from the Washington Post and the most boring guy in Television, he speaks like a zombie. A Mummy called Fred Barnes from the Weekly Standard, this Mummy was buried in the Reagan Dynasty, and has not deteriorated in all those millenniums.

    And a poor guy called “Juan Williams” … I have always felt pity for this guy … He is a Black Man and has to be in the middle of these super conservative guys affiliated to a party that is the Representation of Anti-Minorities Philosophy.

    But I am beginning to like and admire Juan Williams, because he is becoming a Republican Moderate, and a reasonable guy.

    Juan Williams is beginning to realize that the Republican Party is too far to the right, and he says that Republicans are in danger of becoming a “White Party”.

    Juan Williams is also beginning to acknowledge that Mr Obama has to spend in order to reactivate and recover the Economy.

    Juan is beginning to enter into discussions and warm debates with his two boring companions.

    I take off my hat before Juan Williams.

    Dear Juan Williams … Do not be a fool approving the foolishness of the Zombie and the Mummy.

    Vicente Duque

  3. Bettybb

    I am a 20 year plus Democrat.

    Illegal aliens are not responsible for the swine flu.

    But while people entering this country legally are being checked at the border for the disease, illegals aliens are crossing our southern border with Mexico by the thousands each night, without being checked.

    There is a reason all countries have strick immigation laws, and to stop or control the spread of dieseas is one of them.

    Obama is right. It would be far better if Mexico had a strong public health system. It would also be better if Mexico had its own economy, so its people were not entering our country illegally. The fact it, Mexico is a corrupt, crime ridden, failed third world basket case.

    The border should be sealed to protect the lives of the people in our country.

    We do not need cheap labor. Study after study and the after effect of ICE raids have proved that Americans will take the jobs illegla are stealing.

    The NAFTA Free Trade Cartel ( ie Cabel), which have reaped huge profits while destroying American’s manufacturing base, and depressing middle and working class wages here, are up in arms.

    They are powerful. They are scared Americans will demand that Americans and legal immigrants here in this country come before the “elite’s” profits.

    Don’t be fooled.

    Call your reps and demand the border be sealed.

  4. Bruce De Cell

    Bettydd is exactly right, I am 59 and a registered republican and a relative of a victim of 9/11 and a founding member of 9/11Families For A Secure America. I have lobbied in Wash.D.C. many times and in many state Capitols in regard to our failed immigration system and know that it is no accident the system doesn’t work properly, our elected officials make sure it doesn’t work, they make and pass laws to that end. Our elected officials do so because they depend on the money they get from powerful interest groups who want cheap complicit labor and religious groups who want to fill their pews, also ethnic Hispanic groups like La Raza, (the race) and the MALEDF want the numbers of poor and uneducated to join them giving them large memberships and thus power. Legal immigrates and long time citizens need to do as Bettydd advised and demand from your elected representatives they enforce our immigration laws and if they don’t find candidates for their offices who will. I could go on forever but I hope more citizens exercise their duty to voice their concerns to their elected officials about our national security. Bruce.

  5. George Fulmore

    While it should be clear than we use and abuse Mexican and other Latin immigrants to do the dirty jobs here in the U.S. that we do not want to do ourselves, especially at the wages paid to these immigrants, it now looks like an American company — Smithfield Farms — is responsible for the swine flu outbreak south of the border. There, what sounds like a God-awful pig farm is operated in conditions that sound like they belong in the dark ages. The WHO is supposedly headed down there to get to the bottom of all this. “Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States.”

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