Protecting Public Health Isn’t ‘Racist’

The Quote Below—More Misinformation from the Media

“Migrants are decidedly not to blame for the [coronavirus] pandemic. . . . Foisting culpability for disease and contagion on migrants and asylum seekers remains a common cliché, one that has a long and vile history. Covid-19 has been a boon to the anti-immigrant agenda that President Trump — along with other nativist leaders — has been aching to implement since he took office: wielding extraordinary executive powers to temporarily shutter the refugee resettlement program, lock down the US-Mexico border, suspend asylum processing. . . .

“Baseless reproach, nativist scapegoating, and racist restrictions are nothing new when it comes to the intersection of immigration and disease. Amid a series of cholera outbreaks in the 19th century, Americans pointed the finger at Irish immigrants, even referring to the virus as the “Irish disease.”  In the 1880s, Chinese immigrants were accused of bringing smallpox and the plague, among other diseases, to California — an accusation that bolstered the movement behind the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, one of the early and trend-setting pieces of racist and anti-immigrant legislation. . . .” – The Trump Administration Is Using the Pandemic as an Excuse to Target Immigration and Asylum Seekers, John Washington, Vox, 5/15/20 [Link]

Fact Check of above Quote:  No one claims that migrants should be blamed for the coronavirus or any other diseases. This suggestion by the writer diverts attention from a very reasonable question: Should the United States protect its citizens from diseases brought in by migrants. Most obviously it should. The issue is not blaming them; it is protecting ourselves. Writers like the author of this article can fling politically current bully words like “racist” and “nativist” all they like, but that doesn’t make the need to protect Americans from imported diseases any less a policy of common sense.

We have a long history of exercising this policy, and there is nothing “vile” about it. As the historian Walter Williams notes, “In the late 19th and early 20th century, when masses of European immigrants were trying to enter our country, those with dangerous diseases were turned back from Ellis Island. Americans hadn’t “progressed” to the point of thinking that anyone in the world has a legal right to live in America. Neither did they think it was cruel or racist.”

The health screening of those past immigrants did help fight disease, but as time went some of the communities where they settled became breeding grounds for sickness. This, however, was not the immigrants’ fault. The blame rested on the cheap labor interests that wanted a huge uninterrupted flow of immigration. This inundation kept wages low and kept immigrants living in overcrowded slums—where sicknesses could flourish like the so-called “Irish disease.”

In our own time, cheap labor interests continue the sordid tradition of mass immigration, one which retards the economic prospects and upward mobility of immigrants. A lower and more moderate level of immigration would help immigrants and native-born Americans alike. Unfortunately, those interests get away with their greed largely because their friends in the media portray mass immigration as a “progressive” cause which only “racists” and “nativists” would oppose.


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