As the humanitarian crisis along the Texas-Mexico border worsens, public health is becoming an increasingly important concern. Many refugees may not be immunized against infectious diseases, and as they move beyond detention centers into Texas and beyond, there is a risk of spreading contagious diseases like pertussis and measles. Because detention centers are currently so overwhelmed, many are unable to provide the medical care these refugees need.
It's a real public health concern, and the Texas Medical Association is speaking up to address it. In a statement released yesterday, TMA called on Governor Rick Perry and President Obama to provide medical aid to the refugees currently at the border.
In case you missed it, Governor Perry has responded to the crisis by blaming Obama and upping DPS border security. There has been no action to address the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions immigrants are facing at detention centers, or to provide them with medical care.
Read what TMA's request to Rick Perry after the jump. In the statement, TMA urges action because it is both morally and logically correct:
The Central American women and children streaming into South Texas need medical assistance and they need it now, says Texas Medical Association President Austin King, MD, who traveled to McAllen to personally survey the crisis.
TMA is calling on President Obama and Governor Perry to provide medical aid to the thousands of women and children who have traveled from Central America to Texas. Many of these children have traveled alone without an adult, while others have entered the United States with their mother. The children traveling with their mothers often have a relative or friend in the United States awaiting their arrival and can get through the immigration process faster. They then disperse throughout the country using public transportation without knowing their immunization status and without a physical exam or health history by a physician.
Texas physicians want to ensure every child and mother is vaccinated and receives a thorough health examination – and soon. Dr. King explained, “Communicable diseases know no borders, and it's critical we make certain no one is traveling with tuberculosis, pertussis [whooping cough], measles, or any other contagious disease. Medical aid not only protects the Central American refugees, but it also protects U.S. residents from potential serious and deadly diseases.
“Taking care of these oppressed people who have traveled days without food, water, or bathing is the humanitarian and right thing to do. By helping them, we also are helping our own residents stay healthy,” added Dr. King.
Perry has been consistently endorsed by TMA , and has received close to a quarter million dollars from TMA since 2000. Rick Perry's inaction on providing medical care to vulnerable populations is certainly nothing new–he's the one holding back the Affordable Care Act in Texas, in opposition to TMA's recommendations.
Though TMA is advocating for a reasonable response to a legitimate public health and humanitarian crisis, the unfortunate side effect of hypocrisy is that elected officials are unlikely to listen. And as long as TMA keeps giving money to candidates who make denying healthcare to poor and vulnerable people the center of their platform, TMA's calls for action are likely to continue falling on deaf ears.