Right-wing media used the first U.S. Ebola diagnosis as an opportunity to push their xenophobic agenda by invoking immigration myths, targeting supporters of immigration reform, and pushing for changes to the current U.S. visa system.
CDC Announces First U.S. Patient Diagnosed With Ebola
CDC And Texas Health Department Confirm First Ebola Case Diagnosed in the U.S. In a September 30 press release with the Texas Health Department, the CDC confirmed that the first case of Ebola had been diagnosed in the United States earlier in the day:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed today, through laboratory tests, the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States in a person who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from Liberia. The patient did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 20. [Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 9/30/14]
Wash. Post: State Department Authorities Are Screening Travelers For Ebola And Will Continue To Prevent Contagious Individuals From Boarding Planes. The Washington Post pointed out that Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient who was diagnosed with Ebola in a Dallas hospital, was not exhibiting symptoms when he traveled to the U.S. and could not have infected other passengers.
If someone isn't exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, that person is not infectious. And one of the first symptoms of Ebola is a fever. In airports in all of the affected regions and across the world, passengers coming from flights from West Africa are being screened for elevated temperatures.
If a passenger is sick or has a fever, they won't fly. According to the CDC, "a U.S. Department of Transportation rule permits airlines to deny boarding to air travelers with serious contagious diseases that could spread during flight, including travelers with possible Ebola symptoms. This rule applies to all flights of U.S. airlines, and to direct flights (no change of planes) to or from the United States by foreign airlines."
Despite the fact that an infected passenger flew from Liberia to Dallas this month, that passenger, Duncan, was not sick -- and was therefore not contagious -- while he was traveling. And once people become symptomatic, they become very sick, very quickly. [The Washington Post, 10/1/14]
Right-Wing Media Turn Ebola Diagnosis Into Anti-Immigrant Attacks
Daily Caller Helps Nativist Activist Invoke "Birth Tourism" Myth To Stoke Fears That Ebola-Stricken Visa-Holders Will Flood U.S. Medical System. The Daily Caller gave Jessica Vaughan -- an activist from Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- a platform to suggest that immigrants pose a threat to the U.S. Vaughan argued that "visitors from those countries should be excluded until they can show they're free of Ebola" and claimed that by failing do so the government is "encouraging foreign government officials, professionals and wealthy people to flee Ebola countries to get free medical services in Texas and other states." She cited the myth of "birth tourism" and recent numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as examples of how immigrants "take advantage" of border policies. The Daily Caller later outlined how the administration could stop "visitors who may be carrying diseases":
Without the visa changes, the federal government is encouraging foreign government officials, professionals and wealthy people to flee Ebola countries to get free medical services in Texas and other states, she said.
"People are already coming here for 'birth tourism'" to ensure their children has U.S. citizenship, Vaughan said.
"There's no reason that people won't come here for treatment that doesn't exist in their country," she said, especially "if there is no effort to recoup [medical] costs or to prevent people coming."
"People pay attention to our border policy and try to take advantage of anything they see," she said, citing the surge of 130,000 poor Central Americans who have crossed the southern border since last October.
President Barack Obama has the authority to limit visits from diseased countries, she said.
The State Department has also granted visas to 195,000 Nigerians. That's important, because Nigeria is very close to the infected countries. However, Nigerian officials and Western aid workers have blocked one Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, which infected 19 people.
The State Department's website shows how many visas have been awarded to people in various countries. The total numbers have to be reduced because visas typical expire after one year or two years.
Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act allows the federal government to exclude visitors who may be carrying diseases.
Visitors with "a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others ... is inadmissible," says the law. [The Daily Caller, 10/1/14; Southern Law Poverty Center, February 2009]
Breitbart: "Regardless Of The Ebola Problem... This Guy Was A Visa Overstay Waiting To Happen." Citing a separate interview with Vaughan, Breitbart further promoted her claims that "we've taken steps to protect illegal aliens from catching this in their home country but there hasn't been anything done to protect Americans" and her attempt to connect the Texas Ebola patient to a broader anti-immigration agenda: "There are many factors weighing against issuing this visa under any circumstances, regardless of the Ebola problem... This guy was a visa overstay waiting to happen."
"We keep hearing from the CDC that there's almost no way to catch it, and yet we're protecting people from deportation? We don't protect people from deportation to countries that have high rates of HIV or Tuberculosis? This is supposedly harder to catch than that, Tuberculosis."
"So we've taken steps to protect illegal aliens from catching this in their home country but there hasn't been anything done to protect Americans because there already are about 200,000 people who have been issued visas to travel here," Vaughan stated. "Even if you stopped issuing visas today, there are already 200,000 people who have been issued visas to come here."
Vaughan said if the administration actually had a plan earlier, the case in Dallas would likely not exist.
"If they had stepped in earlier with a more robust prevention plan, presumably this case from Dallas would not have happened," she said, adding that Duncan--the man with Ebola in Dallas--should have been stopped from entering the United States.
"First of all, he is what we call a third-country national -- someone applying for a non-immigrant visa outside their country of citizenship," Vaughan said. "That is a red flag, because it means that the applicant's ties to the country in which he is living are assumed to be weak. Add to that the fact that he is apparently a young single unemployed male Liberian living in Ghana and a citizen of the country that has one of the highest visa overstay rates of any country in the world and he already has a close family member in the US, and this was his first trip to the US."
"There are many factors weighing against issuing this visa under any circumstances, regardless of the Ebola problem," she explained. "Personally, I am comfortable saying that I probably would not have issued this man a visitor's visa at all. This guy was a visa overstay waiting to happen." [Breitbart, 10/1/14]
Mark Levin: "Hey, How About Secure The Border, That Will Save Lives!" Conservative radio host Mark Levin claimed that the Duncan took advantage of supposedly lax immigration rules and traveled to the U.S. to take advantage of U.S. medical care. Levin warned, "he won't be the last." Levin then called on prominent supporters of immigration reform to comment:
LEVIN: So, what is our great, efficient, well-heeled, well-populated federal government going to do about this? Well, it won't do much effective unless it bans, at least for a period of time, people coming in to this country from those parts of the world. I'm very serious about this. So don't get on planes and make people ill. So don't come into our country and go through our hospital system and make people ill. Kill people. Don't you love it? The left, they always like the air and the water, keep it clean or it will kill people. Hey, how about we secure the border. That might save lives! No, can't do that!
And you can't tell me he didn't hop onto a plane to get to the United States without knowing that he would likely come down with this, almost certainly come down with this. Because he wanted treatment in the United States, to live. And he won't be the last. Because he wanted to live.
Where is Luis Gutiérrez? Where is he? Where is that - what's that guy's name, that Univision guy? Jorge Ramos, where's he? Where's Jorge? What about Jeb Bush? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Mark Levin Show, 10/1/14]
Limbaugh: "We Have Had Somebody Come Across The Border Carrying Ebola With Them." On the October 2 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that the U.S. "had somebody come across the border carrying Ebola with them" arguing that our "open borders "are allowing people with diseases to come to the U.S.:
LIMBAUGH: People from Liberia have the fifth highest visa overstay rate in the United States. Now how many times did the administration and the news media make fun of or mock people for suggesting somebody might come across the border with Ebola? Ever since Ebola outbreak occurred, coupled with our open borders, there have been people warning, are we doing anything? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/2/14]
Laura Ingraham On Ebola: "What's More Important, Political Correctness And An Obsession With Open Borders For Multicultural Purposes Or Our Nation State." On the October 2 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, radio host Laura Ingraham used the news of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States to complain about the Obama administration's "obsession with open borders" and immigration:
INGRAHAM: My questioning Barack Obama on this is the same reason I question Obama on the border. What is more important? A multicultural society by mass illegal immigration or health, wages, the middle class, African American folks who can't get jobs? What's more important, political correctness and an obsession with open borders for multicultural purposes or our nation state? I say our nation state is more important than people who think you can never shut down air travel or immigration or anything else on the face of the planet. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 10/2/14]
Previously, Right-Wing Media Hyped Fears That Ebola Will Spread Into U.S. Through The Southern Border
Breitbart: Individuals From Nations Suffering From Ebola Exploit "Porous" U.S. Border. On August 3, Breitbart.com claimed that it had obtained "a leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)" purporting to show that 71 individuals from Ebola-stricken nations had been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S.:
Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world's largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014. [Breitbart.com, 8/3/14]
Infowars.com: "Ebola May Have Already Crossed Border" And "Be Spreading" Across The U.S. On August 4, conspiracy website Infowars.com pointed to Breitbart.com's CBP report to claim it showed that "Ebola may have already crossed [the] border, hyping fears that "by shipping illegals to various regions of the U.S., the Obama administration could also be spreading Ebola or another deadly disease carried by an illegal immigrant right now across America." [Infowars.com, 8/4/14]
Drudge Report: "Dozens From Ebola-Struck Countries Caught Sneaking Into USA." On August 3, a Drudge Report headline highlighted Breitbart.com's report linking immigration to the Ebola crisis:
[Drudge Report, 8/4/14]
Laura Ingraham: "We Could Have Ebola People Coming Across The Border Right Now." Laura Ingraham, a contributor to both ABC and Fox News, used the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as an excuse to stoke fears that Ebola-infected individuals may be illegally crossing into the U.S.:
INGRAHAM: All the people who are upset about the Ebola-infected patients being treated in the United States. I will say this, at least we know who they are and where they're being treated. We currently have a border that is so much like Swiss cheese that anyone could be coming across the border right now, with any type of illness. And, we have a very limited ability to stop them, track them, prevent the disease from spreading. So before you get all upset about Ebola, we could have Ebola people coming across the border right now. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 8/4/14]