Inside the Right-Wing's Creepy Demonization of Helpless Children
Immigrants wait for a naturalization ceremony held at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office on January 17, 2014 in New York City
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The anti-immigrant protests in Murrieta, California last week brought the issue of Central American children flooding to the border to national attention. The influx of kids applying for asylum under a law signed by George W. Bush is becoming a humanitarian crisis, with services being stretched to the limit and calls for the children to be immediately deported back to their troubled homelands. It's now the focus of intense political debate as the Republicans try to blame Obama and demand he use his executive powers to close the border. On Wednesday he threw the gauntlet back and requested that the House pass his emergency supplemental request to ease the social services on the border and pass the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. As of today, the stand-off continues.
But while the intense reaction among conservatives may seem to have only developed recently, it's been simmering for some time on conservative media. Talk radio show hosts like Laura Ingraham had been demagoguing the issue for weeks, fulminating about the threat to America's "way of life" and grumbling that the ungrateful tykes were complaining about the food, going so far as to mock them by playing the "Yo quiero Taco Bell" tag line. When the administration submitted a request for more funds to house and keep the children in temporary quarters, an "anti-amnesty" group was inspired to suggest sending their used underwear to save the government from having to procure any. The Koch-funded conservative blog American Prosperity Network issued shrill dispatches claiming that the influx of children on the border was an "orchestrated campaign" by the Democratic Party to draw government-dependent kids to the United States in order to steal jobs from Americans and add to their voter rolls. Republican luminaries such as possible presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry signed on to that conspiracy theory saying on ABC's This Week, "I hate to be conspiratorial, but I mean how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and then into the United States without there being a fairly coordinated effort?"
But the controversy really boiled over with news reports last week that these children were "diseased" and were being shipped all over the nation, infecting Americans with everything from H1N1 flu to scabies to Cangas fever. Whatever other problems these people may have had with these children being allowed to seek asylum in America, it was now a public health threat.
The Drudge Report pulled out its trusty siren and blared that Border Patrol agents had tested positive for "diseases carried by immigrants." Talk radio show host Bryan Fischer hysterically tweeted that 4 out of 5 border patrol agents were infected. (The report actually said "4 or 5" border patrol agents....) The Daily Beast, quoting anonymous sources, breathlessly reported that two children had tested positively for the H1N1 virus and erroneously proclaimed that it had been eradicated in the US until now. In fact, H1N1 is a common flu virus in the US and it is included in the flu vaccines for 2014. Nonetheless, the word went forth that the "pint-sized carriers" needed to be quarantined lest decent Americans be infected by deadly swine flu.
Michael Savage, the radio talk show host best known for being kicked off of television for telling a viewer that he hoped he would "get AIDS and die" has long been an advocate of closing the borders due to the threat of disease. He styles himself an "epidemiologist" but in reality has a Phd in a field called "ethnomedicine" which, according to Wikipedia, is "the study of traditional medicine practiced by various ethnic groups, and especially by indigenous peoples." He spent years in the field of alternative medicine until his final health and nutrition manuscript ( Immigrants and Epidemics) was rejected by publishers for being inflammatory and he turned full-time to right-wing radio. He is to epidemiology what far-right Christian historian David Barton is to American history: a quack. But that did not stop him from issuing a hysterical public health advisory: