Skip to content

Ironic Immigration

© Jen Sorensen

Bad choices often come home to roost, but in this case, it is a vicious cycle where our reaction to a perceived problem just makes the problem worse.

Donald Trump rails against immigrants, both legal and illegal. But think about it a minute. Where are these migrants coming from? Mostly from the Middle East and Central America. Well, remember the Iran-Contra scandal where we sold arms to Iran (which was illegal) and used the profits to fund the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight to overthrow their government (also illegal)? As a side note, do you know who pardoned everyone involved in this sad affair? (Hint: he died recently.)

And then there was our invasion of Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 (which Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with). And killing Muammar Al Gathafi. And funding Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. And our invasion of Panama. And on and on.

So it was our actions that helped fuel the refugee crisis. Which led to politicians like Trump stoking fears about immigrants. But it isn’t limited to the US. The Brexit vote in the UK was driven by fear of immigrants. Nativist and populist politicians are increasing in power in many places around the world.

Another huge ironic aspect of this is the use of fear of disease to attack immigrants. Donald Trump said “Tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border.”

But a new study published yesterday in the medical journal The Lancet argues that this is completely backwards. “There is no evidence to show that migrants are spreading disease. That is a false argument that is used to keep migrants out.” In general, immigrants are healthier than people in their host countries.

In addition — and this is really ironic — a large percentage of health care workers are immigrants. In the US, 29% of doctors and 24% of dentists were born elsewhere. According to the study, “Rather than being a burden, migrants are more likely to bolster services by providing medical care, teaching children, caring for older people, and supporting understaffed services.”

Even if it were true that migrants were more likely to be diseased, our current actions seem intentionally designed to make the situation worse. The Trump administration is trying to make it more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards if they have ever used Medicaid. Studies have shown that even legal immigrants are already afraid to sign up for public benefits because they are afraid they will be deported. According to the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, this will cost US taxpayers more as immigrants avoid getting health care and end up getting sicker than they otherwise would. If we are really concerned about the bad health of immigrants, wouldn’t it make more sense to make sure they have proper medical care?

Of course, we do have an example of immigrants bringing in “tremendous infectious disease”, but it happened hundreds of years ago. When Europeans “discovered” America, they brought with them smallpox, bubonic plague, chickenpox, cholera, diphtheria, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, whooping cough, even influenza and the common cold.

In the US, these diseases killed up to half of all Native Americans, and many smaller tribes went extinct. In Florida alone, the population of Native Americans dropped from 700,000 to 2000, a death rate of 99.7%. In Mexico, around 25 million indigenous people died due to introduced disease, which has been described as “the greatest genocide in the history of man.” And despite advances in medicine, we still suffer from most of these diseases.

But even if foreign germs were something to fear today, eliminating immigration entirely now wouldn’t make us any safer at all, because the vast majority of people moving across our borders are not immigrants (they are things like business people and tourists). And it wouldn’t stop diseases that come in other ways, like via rats on cargo ships or birds that easily fly over any wall.

And of course, even if it made any sense to stop immigration, building Trump’s wall wouldn’t stop enough immigrants to make any difference at all. After all, a wall wouldn’t stop immigrants coming in by sea, or who use underground tunnels. And according to people who smuggle in illegal immigrants, there are always border agents or customs officials who are willing to take a bribe and look the other way. And The Wall wouldn’t stop drug smuggling either, as most illegal drugs come in through ports of entry, not where the wall would be built.

If we are really worried about our safety, we would spend the ridiculous amount of money the wall would cost us on providing better health care.

But maybe the politicians who complain about immigration don’t really care if they stop it. After all, if they did that, they wouldn’t have anyone on whom to blame everything, and nobody would vote for them.

Also published on Medium.



  1. Wildwood wrote:

    Migration is a normal human device for protection from anything from drought or disease to war. We have always migrated. The drive to find safe haven is stronger than the fear of what will happen at a border. Having borders has impeded but not stopped this. People who think a wall will keep us safe are evidently not capable of rational thought. You build a wall on the southern border, what do you do on the northern border? You build a wall on the northern border, what do you do about your water access? You build a wall on your water access, what do you do about intrusion from the air or from tunnels?
    At what point does the cost of this become so huge that it destroys the country? At what point will this drive us to migrate to more reasonable countries? Is this driven by a fear that white people are becoming a huge minority? Guess what? I realized that decades ago and made my kids learn Spanish in high school. It didn’t take all that well, but I was pretty sure that either they or my grands would end up marrying someone of another ethnicity, the likeliest being someone from south of the border. And guess what else? I don’t care if that’s what happens. That is the future and what we need to do is realize it and accept it. There are few whiter people than me and mine. And if I can accept it and not only accept, but embrace it, others should as well. Less nationalism and more humanism.

    Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Wildwood, ironically immigrants statistically have fewer children than people who were born in that country. Minorities are increasing in number in the US mostly from the efforts of US citizens, not immigrants. Lacking some kind of draconian law that limits the number of children minority citizens are allowed to have, we white bread folk are going to become a minority sometime in the near future. And given that most minorities work harder, that might not be such a bad thing!

    BTW, while my first wife was a US citizen, English was actually the third language she learned how to speak fluently. Her grandparents were all Mexican (although contrary to what some people think, Hispanic people are actually white too). Learning Spanish is very handy. I became good enough in it that I could dream in Spanish.

    Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  3. Dave TN wrote:

    Interesting study

    Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    Not mentioned is the US war in Afghanistan started in the 1980s when Russia invaded Afghanistan to gain access to the sea. An actor named Reagan hired mercenaries from Saudi Arabia who had no other jobs because they were Princes. One being Osama Bin Laden whose brothers were already in Texas.
    “Lie Down with Lions” After the Russians were banished, Bin Laden and his ilk imposed a hard line Muslim Religion not known to the Muslim Afghanistans. Took away Women’s rights, etc and led to the travesty of 9/11. Had the US stayed out of it, we will never know what would have happened with the Russian invasion. My guess is that there would have been no 9/11 perpetrated by Bin Laden.

    Later on to return the Afghan rights, Bush invaded, and we have perpetual war there.

    Friday, December 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  5. ebdoug wrote:

    If you can “delete” my anonymous post, I’d appreciate. [done. –iron]

    4 of my eight Grandchildren are part Seneca so the native Americans live on.

    Friday, December 7, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Eva, I did mention Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

    We never learn, do we?

    Friday, December 7, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    It is the 1980s connection with Osama bin Laden that people forget. That’s when it all started.

    Around 2010, I realized I practice Ahimsa. Makes life so much easier. Afghanistan and Iraq did nothing to us so we leave them alone. Same with Vietnam.

    Friday, December 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  8. Wildwood wrote:

    I think there are times when we need to engage with our military and do something, but there is very little in the last 70 plus years that fits my idea of the need to step in. A large part of that has been caused by what Eisenhower warned us about, the military industrial complex. If we build bombs, we need planes and subs and ships to deliver them. Then we need targets for the delivery. The military has never been audited, has never had to account for where those vast amounts of money go, and why, and until that happens, I think there needs to be a freeze on military spending. A complete and thorough audit is beyond overdue. So I think the problem started before the 80’s. After WWII we had a military complex that did not want to be put back on the shelf. The bomb and plane makers didn’t want to go back to producing what they produced prior to the war. There is huge money in war so war and our military industrial complex became our fourth arm of government.

    Friday, December 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] flee authoritarian oppression, then engender intolerance and fear, which cause authoritarianism, and more refugees. […]