Citing a need to protect public health, a county judge in Texas is weighing vaccinations for illegal aliens being detained and processed at several locations in Texas’ southernmost county.
Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos is asking health officials if vaccines might help stem the pervasiveness of disease crossing the border along with the Central American immigrant influx.
“This is a population that has surged here without any warning to any of us,” Judge Cascos told KGBT news in an interview yesterday. “Most of these families coming over don’t have any immunization records. They start from scratch here.”
The elected official said he’s concerned for public health, and claimed the county is prepared to weather the cost of vaccinating illegal immigrants showing signs of illness.
“I mean, I’m not gonna wait and not vaccinate someone that needs a vaccination in hopes of getting paid later on. I think we do the right humanitarian thing,” Cascos said. “I’ve been meeting with a team of health experts to see if we need to vaccinate these people.”
While the county health team advising him says at this time there are no immediate health worries related to the immigrant surge, they did express concerns that immigrants often undergo rapid processing and medical exams, which can fail to spot communicable diseases, before continuing further into the interior.
“Border Patrol is working to get them processed quickly and they drop them off at the bus station,” Health Administrator Yvette Salinas said. “Most of them don’t come by the clinic to get checked so they go on to their next destination.”
The team also said there is no indication the case of swine flu (H1N1), identified in an immigrant minor detained at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, passed through Cameron County.
The health team, however, did not address the two cases of H1N1 found over the weekend in holding facilities located in Brownsville, Texas, nor reports of Border Patrol agents contracting diseases from afflicted juveniles.
The county Commissioner’s Court will hear the team’s findings on Thursday.
Backlash from residents
There’s no word yet on the vaccine program’s price tag, but already Rio Grande Valley residents aren’t too happy about the news.
“Vaccinations! Seems like these politicians plan on keeping illegals here for a while, and many more,” one ValleyCentral.com commenter noted.
“Total madness,” another commenter said. “Everybody is going crazy and in circles on this. Nobody knows what to do. Their countries of origin should be ashamed of this. The easiest and cheapest thing to do and to protect our communities of anything is to just deport them asap.”
“This is insane!” a Facebook user commented on ValleyCentral’s page. “I had a hard enough time being my boys flu vaccines and that’s because I have private insurance that I pay alot for and now they want to give vaccines to those that don’t live here or pay anything? What the hell?”
Another user was more blunt. “NO!!!!!! SPEND THAT MONEY TO SEND THEM HOME!!”
“Only if Americans get the freebies first,” another said.
Few others praised the judge for wanting to act in the public’s best interest. “It’s worth paying if it means saving us from outbreaks. Then that’s even MORE money out of our pocket in the long run,” one user pointed out.
“They will not be getting sent back so might as well do it for our protection…,” another user conceded.
Unfortunately, with the federal government doing little to address increasing public health concerns – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, has ignored requests for help from Border Patrol unions – and frequent reports of illness running rampant in detention facilities, the county judge is in a bind.
Of course, he would be in a much bigger pickle if any detainees died or sustained bodily injury from vaccine-related complications.