"Make no mistake about it: Illegal aliens are the carriers of the new strain of human-swine avian flu from Mexico." These words, spoken in the tremulous, outraged voice of California radio jock Michael Savage, are typical of the "debate" that is already inflaming the airwaves and blogosphere in the wake of the swine flu outbreak. It is the same kind of charge that always seems to be leveled against "outsiders" during times of national crisis -- whether it be the canard of refugee Jews bringing disease to France in the 1930s or of Gypsies infecting contemporary Italy.
Swine flu has merely provided accelerant to the already incendiary rhetoric about immigration and race in this country. Media Matters quotes longtime Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin on the subject. Writing in her best Nobody Listens to Me voice, Malkin says, "I've blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the U.S. as a result of uncontrolled immigration."
Americans, in other words, turned their backs upon this Cassandra's
prophesies at their own peril. All because, I suppose, we mistook them
for the unmedicated ravings of a professional hater. Malkin finds a
silver lining here, however, because, as she says, "maybe we'll finally
get serious about borders now."
This kind of hygienics alarm was sounded before the recent epidemic. Last year the Southern Poverty Law Center took note of an online book by one Peter Wagner, whose "The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration
portrays undocumented immigrants as rapists, murderers, drunk drivers
and disease-carriers. Citing the far-right WorldNetDaily website, it
asserts that during a recent three-year period the United States saw
'9,000 cases [of leprosy] and most were illegal aliens.'" The leprosy
figure, needless to say, was quickly debunked.
The SPLC also
profiled Frosty Wooldridge, a nativist speaker who appears at American
Legions posts promoting his own book. "Hepatitis, along with head lice
and tuberculosis," the SLPC cites Wooldridge as claiming, "are showing
up in classrooms because of what Wooldridge calls immigrants' 'disease
jihad.' In case that's not enough, Wooldridge adds that Mexicans 'do
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not wash their hands after using bathroom facilities.'"Those leprosy "facts," by the way, eventually found their way into the
mouth of CNN's Lou Dobbs -- who has now jumped onto the immigrant-disease-carriers bandwagon. So the next time your hear these kind of
claims surface on cable TV or yack radio, consider where they bubble
up from first.