Tags: Emerging Threats | Exclusive Interviews | Homeland Security | Immigration | Latin America | Mexico | MidPoint

Ex-HHS Official: Feds Partly to Blame for Immigrant Disease Hype

By Sean Piccoli   |   Monday, 21 Jul 2014 04:48 PM

More openness by the federal government about its medical screenings of thousands of new undocumented immigrants could help stem needless public panic over imported diseases, a former Department of Health and Human Services official told Newsmax TV on Monday.

"I wish HHS would have a little more transparency in the process so we could learn a little bit more about what's going on," Tevi Troy, an HHS deputy secretary under President George W. Bush, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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"But there are some political ramifications here, and they're not so eager to let us know everything that's happening," said Troy, president of the American Health Policy Institute.

A flood of immigrants from Central American countries, including almost 60,000 unaccompanied children, has stoked fears that the new arrivals might carry exotic diseases or cause new outbreaks of old pandemics such as measles.

Troy said the massive immigrant influx does pose health concerns, but not of the type making scary headlines.

"Ebola and leprosy are not high on my worry list," he said.

Troy and Berliner also discussed figures showing that child vaccination rates for measles and the like are actually higher in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico — the four countries sending the greatest number of immigrants north — than they are in the United States.

The bigger concern is the number of allowable "opt-out" provisions for Americans who don't want their children vaccinated, he said.

HHS workers are screening the new arrivals for medical problems, as they should, he said. But he said that medical screenings, while necessary, can work against the larger goals of securing the United States' southern border and discouraging illegal immigration.

"The screening is part of a regularization process that's taking place," he said. "These people are being screened and looked at and registered in some way, and then sent somewhere else in the country. And that effectively means they're here for the long haul, even though they are illegal.

"So, on the one hand, you want people to be screened," he said. "On the other hand, this regularization process is leading to a situation where we have a lot of people who effectively have come into the country illegally, and there's no real mechanism to change that back."

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