The death of Eric Thomas Duncan of Ebola, the first, on U.S. soil, has fueled anger towards immigrants in some communities. Duncan arrived in Dallas, Texas in September, and died of Ebola few weeks later. Even though the second person to be infected, Amber Vinson, has been declared free of Ebola, more than 100 Texans are still being monitored, according to a report in Yahoo News published Wednesday. This has raised the mercury level to a higher level in the thermometer that measures immigration temperature.
After struggling to find a way to stop entry of Ebola carriers into the U.S without disrupting air travel, the U.S. government finally announced Wednesday that travelers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – where more than 4,500 have died from the disease – will undergo enhanced Ebola screening at five U.S airports. Planes from the three countries will land at O’Hare in Chicago, JFK, Newark, Washington’s Dulles or Atlanta. This decision will likely please U.S Rep. Pete Sessions from Dallas, Texas, who sparred with CNN’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, over the issue during a televised debate last week. Sessions insisted that the government needed to block 13,000 visa-holders in Africa from entering the country. Dr. Gupta disagreed, pointing out that the move would make it difficult to trace and treat the carriers of the disease if they resorted to travel by land.
At the Vickery Meadow neighborhood where the late Duncan lived, some residents from Africa say they are viewed with suspicion. In an article published by Reuters on Oct. 5, Sekou, who is a Liberian immigrant who declined to give his full name, narrated his experience. “Some people around here see us as bringing the disease and that is just not right,” he said.
Seven miles from Vickery Meadow in downtown Dallas, Duncan’s death is creating anger beyond the neighborhood. A parking lot attendant, who gave his name as Ayob, reported experiencing the same kind of animosity. He said that some guy told him to go and get quarantined.
Even before Duncan succumbed to death on U.S. soil due to Ebola, anger was already directed at immigrants by those opposed to legalizing their status. Some conservative Republicans are beginning to make it an issue in the 2014 mid-term elections. Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, now running for a senatorial seat in New Hampshire, is reported to have said in an article published by CNN that he wanted undocumented immigrants stopped from entering the United States because they might bring the disease in to the country, a view shared by other politicians from the Republican Party.
Julio Valera, founder of Latino Rebels, whose website focuses on issues affecting Latinos, disagreed with Brown’s view. He said those opposed to legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants were mixing the immigration issue with Ebola and other unrelated subjects in order to create confusion.
Several U.S. agencies have also taken steps to stop the spread of Ebola beyond the affected region. In a press release dated Tuesday, Sept. 2, CDC director Tom Frieden said more than 550 staff members are providing various forms of assistance. The United States Aid for International Development (USAID) has also provided $21 million towards containing the disease since the outbreak in March. “The sooner the world comes together to help West Africans the safer we will be,” Dr. Frieden said. However, there is still fuel for U.S. anger toward immigrants due to the first Ebola deaths on U.S. soil.
By Benedicto Ateku