As the Central American migrant caravan marched through Mexico to our southern border, the primary concern was border security. The caravan was literally an invasion whose intent was to enter the U.S. and demand asylum. As a nation, America is generous and compassionate, however to have thousands show up on our doorstep presented an economic and security hardship. Since 9/11/01 we have been concerned with our porous border with Mexico over which drugs, weapons and even humanity could pass. We have imposed extensive airport security to detect conventional as well as “dirty” bombs. When it comes to our southern border however, its length and the lack of physical barriers along most of it make us extremely vulnerable to terrorist infiltration. The major media outlets downplayed the security risks. Instead they played politics and attacked the President as racist and xenophobic. We are now seeing another danger from the caravan, that of importing disease. The migrants have been forced to remain in Tijuana while they await the chance to apply for asylum. Homeland security has already stated that some 80-90% of the migrants will not qualify for asylum. As a result they have been crowded into a facility designed to house a fraction of those present. These migrants are living in crowded, unsanitary conditions that lack clean water and proper sanitation. The absence of clean water and the inability to properly dispose of human waste is a recipe for disease. We have seen many times throughout history how disease spreads in similar situations. Even if all these individuals were in good health when they arrived in Tijuana the chances of them remaining that way are slim. The longer their plight continues, the more likely they are to become ill.
The earliest illnesses reported have been intestinal disorders. Raw sewage is teeming with viruses, bacteria and parasites. Diarrhea leading to dysentery and dehydration can be expected over time. Upper respiratory infections are also a casualty of close quarters and many such illnesses are being reported within the caravan. Without appropriate screening we have no idea what diseases may exist within this migrant population. Diseases that are relatively rare in the U.S. such as polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV could exist within the group. Our system of public health and school boards insure that routine childhood vaccinations are given. Central American states are unlikely to have such stringent standards. We have already seen a number of chicken pox cases being reported. The caravan population pose a number of problems for border agents and their task is daunting. The best solution to the formation of future caravans is to establish portals in Central American countries. This would allow asylum seekers to apply without the need to leave their homes and expose themselves to the dangers of caravans.