Immigration

Congressman: Measles Outbreak May Be Caused By ‘Illegal Aliens’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)

An Alabama congressman with virulently anti-immigrant beliefs has a new theory on who may be causing the current measles outbreak: “illegal aliens.”

Appearing on the Matt Murphy radio show Tuesday morning, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) was asked by the host whether he saw any correlation between immigration and the measles outbreak that has erupted in the United States.

Brooks began by offering a red herring that “illegal aliens” are bringing new diseases into the country, before going on to suggest that they could be behind measles as well.

Said Brooks: “It might be the enterovirus that has a heavy presence in Central and South America that has caused deaths of American children over the past 6 to 9 months. It might be this measles outbreak. There are any number of things.”

Lest one thinks Brooks is heartless on the subject of immigration, he implores listeners that “You have to have sympathy for the plight of the illegal aliens” who “have not been blessed with the kind of health care, the kind of immunizations that we demand of our children in the United States.” Still, he argues, the requirement that children be vaccinated before entering school “to some degree is suspended for illegal alien children.”

During the interview, Brooks also floated the idea of impeaching President Obama for his handling of immigration.

Listen to it:

The closest thing to evidence that immigration has any relationship whatsoever to measles in the United States are a few incidents of cases traced to European travelers. But researchers have traced recent outbreaks to the persistent — and completely misguided — belief that vaccines are harmful to children. In fact, the vast majority of new cases of measles are found in children whose parents had “philosophical” objections to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Many cases come from children of parents who have been fed misinformation about vaccinations by people like Jenny McCarthy. In California, where the outbreak is spreading rapidly, wealthy Los Angeles-area residents are increasingly opting out of vaccinations at historically high rates.

Contrary to Brooks’ assertion that foreigners don’t get vaccinated as American children do, data from the World Health Organization shows that the following countries have higher vaccination rates for measles than the United States’ rate of 92 percent: Mexico (99 percent), Nicaragua (99 percent), Panama (98 percent), Belize (96 percent), Guatemala (93 percent), Honduras (93 percent), and El Salvador (93 percent). In fact, most countries in Central and South America have higher rates of measles vaccination than does the United States. In all, some 108 countries have higher measles vaccination rates than the United States.

But this data hasn’t stopped Brooks or others in a long line of conservatives from arguing for years that immigrants are public health risks.