Now that about 1,200 unaccompanied children — mostly from Central America and Mexico — have been released to sponsors in North Carolina, the state’s governor is claiming that those children may have communicable diseases.
During a news conference held Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory indicated that his state needed the health status and immunization records of the children not only to help treat them in emergency rooms, but “to protect other citizens from communicable diseases,” according to the Associated Press.
“We are not receiving information on their gender or their names or their age or their health status,” McCrory said, according to a local ABC affiliate. “We are also not receiving information on the name of the sponsors they’ve been placed with.”
But Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson Kenneth Wolfe refuted the diseases claim, telling the Associated Press, “Children with serious health conditions are treated at local hospitals. The cost of this care is fully paid by the federal government.”
McCrory joins several other lawmakers who have cited worry over migrant disease as reason to deny immigrants refuge or even shelter. But federal officials have reiterated that they have medical concerns under control.
According to the HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, children released to sponsors “receive vaccinations and medical screenings. We do not release any children who have a contagious condition.” What’s more, the “well-child” health screening process would have already taken place long before children are placed with sponsors. When children are intercepted by border agents and transferred to U.S. border stations, agents screen children for health problems and quarantine those who test positive for tuberculosis.
More than 57,500 children — mainly from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico — have come across the southern U.S. border since October 2013, some who have attempted the journey multiple times. Like the United States which has a 92 percent immunization rate, these four countries also participate in comprehensive childhood vaccination programs against preventable diseases like polio, tuberculosis, and measles. Data from the World Bank indicates that Latin American children receive vaccinations at roughly the same rates as children from the United States.
McCrory also slammed federal officials for not providing much information beyond the raw numbers of children, taking issue with the federal government for not informing state officials about when migrant children have been sent to the state and where they were located.
At the same time, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose state has the highest number of unaccompanied children per capita than any other state, said that he was “open to more hospitable places” for children within his state.
Still, there certainly isn’t a short supply of lawmakers who have spread the communicable diseases argument in an attempt to paint the unaccompanied situation as a threat to Americans. The list includes Congressional members like Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX), Phil Gringrey (R-GA), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN). Ironically Mother Jones pointed out that Gringrey has long-standing ties to a group that opposes vaccinations.