On Wednesday, Fox News posted a video on its streaming Fox Nation service featuring Tomi Lahren calling asylum seekers at America’s southern border a “Caravan of Disease.” The two-minute rant features Lahren demeaning immigrants and stoking xenophobic fantasies by calling out parents and children fleeing violence for having lice, skin infections, and, in a combined eleven cases tuberculosis, HIV, and chickenpox. Lahren, a racist spreading classic “dirty immigrant” rhetoric, neglected to mention that immigrants are no more likely to spread disease in their adoptive countries than anyone else. She also failed to mention that, by providing a platform for anti-vaxxer activists, her network has fueled a growing immunization crisis.
“Do you want TB, HIV/AIDS, chicken pox or hepatitis in your communities at your children’s schools?” Lahren shouts while pointing at the camera. “I have a feeling the warm and fuzzy spirit of compassion doesn’t treat or prevent diseases like those.”
Lahren, unsurprisingly, seems to have avoided speaking to scientists before delivering her ill-informed and hateful monologue.
Much of the data to refute Lahren can be found in the Commission on Migration and Health a two-year study published Wednesday by the medical journal The Lancet. In no uncertain terms, researchers reject the idea that migrants spread disease, writing specifically: “For example, studies on tuberculosis suggest that the risk of transmission is elevated within migrant households and migrant communities, but not in host populations.”
In fact, the report notes that with proper surveillance of infectious diseases, the transmission of those diseases is largely nullified by the health systems in the host country. And, for those keeping track, those health systems are run disproportionately by immigrants. About 16 percent of America’s healthcare workers, from nurses and doctors to pharmacists and home health aids were not born in America.
Ironically, Lahren was able to put numbers to the diseases because the surveillance system in Mexico is doing its job. But it’s not the only surveillance system working. There’s a robust public health information in Lahren’s home state of California. That states infectious disease surveillance system found over 500 cases of tuberculosis where Lahren lives in Los AngeleCounty. And as far as chicken pox and measles are concerned both of those diseases are finding a foothold among anti-vax communities. Consider the chicken pox outbreak in a North Carolina private school with a high religious exemption rate for vaccines. The outbreak eventually infected 36 children. Perhaps Lahren should be pointing her finger a little closer to home.
But if Lahren were to attack anti-vaxxers, she’d probably get blow-back from Fox News viewers. After all, Fox has been a safe space for the anti-vaccination community worried about government overreach and religious liberty.
What’s particularly bizarre about Lahren’s rant is the fact that she suggest the “warm and fuzzy spirit of compassion” can’t combat disease. In fact, it is likely one of the driving factors keeping the world safe from a global outbreak. If it weren’t for compassionate people willing to care for those who are sick and in need, we’d be neck deep in bodies. And they would be right on Lahren’s front door.
As it stands, a lack of compassion is exacerbating any sickness at the border. As asylum seekers huddle in camps waiting for entry, their health will only get worse. Meanwhile, exceptional care that would help these men, women and children become productive healthy members of our society sits just on the other side of the fence.
So, yeah, Tomi. A spirit of compassion would help. Try it sometime.