AAPS Urges Congressional Hearings Concerning Health and Safety of Border-Crossers
Jul 3, 2014
Open Letter to U.S. Senators and Representatives from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons:
This is a call for congressional hearings concerning the health and safety of recent border-crossers, especially children, the persons who care for them, and the people of the communities to which they are sent. Citizens and local officials are not receiving adequate information from federal agencies, and Border Patrol officers and medical personnel have reportedly been threatened with firing or even arrest if they speak out.
To get at the truth, Congress needs to subpoena officials from Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), commanders of military facilities used to house migrants, state and local public health officials, private contractors, and personnel in direct contact with the migrants, including current and former Border Patrol agents and medical personnel. There needs to be a process for protecting whistleblowers.
Questions that require urgent answers include, but are not limited to the following:
1. Where are the migrants from? Public health officials need to know because of outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, chikungunya virus in the Caribbean, dengue fever in much of Latin America, and multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Leprosy is endemic in Mexico.
2. Who are the migrants? Are they photographed and fingerprinted? Are law enforcement and national security databases checked? How can children’s parents be notified of their fate? How can authorities track them? Who has custody of children, and who determines what happens to them? Is there a process for repatriating them?
3. Were migrants lured here by false representations? What communications were made with governments or news outlets, and who is responsible? Were any agreements made with foreign governments, for example, for use of Mexican air space for charter flights?
4. What private contractors are involved, for example in escorting 65,000 unaccompanied children or buying up real estate for housing transients? How was the estimate of 65,000 arrived at? What was the bidding process? How much is being paid? Were any special deals made with local zoning or permitting officials? What public health regulations apply? What security is required? Who is liable for injuries or lost children or harm to communities receiving the influx? Are contractors responsible for healthcare, education, law enforcement, and social services, or are these responsibilities an unfunded mandate on states and local jurisdictions? To whom are contractors accountable?
5. What health screening is done? What are the results? Do public health officials of the communities receiving migrants think it is adequate?
6. Are public transportation vehicles inspected for lice and mites and adequately treated? Are they adequately sanitized to prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses that survive on surfaces?
7. Are proper sanitary and isolation practices observed to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as viral gastroenteritis, influenza, Streptococcal disease, hepatitis, measles, etc.? Are scabies and lice eradicated?
8. If persons who are in custody become ill and require emergency treatment, such as intravenous rehydration, what facilities are available, and who pays?
9. Are law enforcement officers or medical personnel restrained from communicating about problems? If so, who gave this order and why?
10. Are public health authorities and local physicians briefed on any problems? Note that most non-dermatologists do not know how to recognize early leprosy, and most American physicians are unfamiliar with dengue, chikungunya, Ebola, malaria, Chagas, and other diseases common in tropical, poor countries.
For questions, please contact:
Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director, AAPS
1601 N Tucson Blvd Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 75716