Mexico has never seen a case of Ebola before. But for some politicians worried about a potential outbreak of the deadly virus on American soil, that doesn’t matter.
Scott Brown said Thursday that he doesn’t want undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border because they might be carrying Ebola.
“People coming in through normal channels—can you imagine what they can do through our porous borders?” the New Hampshire senate candidate said in a radio interview. Brown was responding to a question about closing the border to combat the spread of the Ebola virus.
Ebola could indeed enter the U.S. through someone traveling to the country—and it has, but not through Mexico. Thomas Eric Duncan, a 42-year-old Liberian man who flew from Monrovia to Texas last month, died Wednesday of the disease in a Dallas hospital.
But there have been no reported cases of Ebola-infected migrants entering the U.S. through the border with Mexico.
Brown is not the first lawmaker to suggest closing the nation’s southern border to prevent infectious diseases from hitching a ride with migrants. In early July, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the issue.
“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey, a medical doctor, wrote.
In a WIRC talk-radio interview in August, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., referenced a conversation he had with Rep. Larry Buschon, R-Ind., in which the pair discussed their concerns that migrant children from South America could bring Ebola to the U.S. In a Tuesday debate with North Carolina Senate hopeful Kay Hagan, Rep. Thom Tillis attacked his opponent for her weak stance on undocumented immigrants. Tillis claimed that “we’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border; we need to seal the border and secure it.”
Some lawmakers, like Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, have called for a ban on all travel from West African countries, where the Ebola outbreak is concentrated.
The CDC has repeatedly warned that closing U.S. borders won’t help.
“I wish we could get to zero risk by sealing off the border,” CDC Director Tom Frieden told Fox News earlier this week. “But we can’t.”