President Donald Trump is desperate to make political hay out of the Honduran migrant "caravan" making its way toward the United States, believing it to be his last hope of turning out his base in a midterm election that is not going his way. He has called the migrants an "invasion," and his administration is deploying 5,200 troops to meet them at the border.
On Monday, David Ward, a former agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went on Fox News to support the border deployment, calling the military a "tremendous asset at the ports of entry." He then justified the whole operation with a racist conspiracy theory.
"We have these individuals coming from all over the world that have some of the most extreme medical care in the world," said Ward. "And they're coming in with diseases such as smallpox and leprosy and TB that are going to infect our people in the United States."
It is extremely unlikely that the migrants will be carrying smallpox, given that the smallpox virus is extinct in the wild. Furthermore, contrary to longstanding xenophobic myths about disease-ridden migrants, many parts of Central America actually have higher vaccination rates than the United States.
But not only did these falsehoods go unchallenged, they are standard fare in right-wing media. "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade has echoed the same worry, saying, "What about diseases? I mean, there's a reason why you can't bring a kid to school unless he's inoculated."
In reality, migrant caravans have occurred frequently for decades and are not a border crisis. The current one is still a thousand miles from the border, will take months to reach us, might disperse as it moves north (already it has shed about 4,000 people from its high of 7,200, including 1,700 who are trying to seek asylum in Mexico), and even if it does make it to the border, it would still be smaller than the average 4,300 asylum seekers who come to the U.S. in a typical month.
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