The Facts

Downloadable Fact Sheet:
Migrant Children and Health: 2 Page Fact Sheet

Present day scaremongering over the purported health risks of immigrant populations perpetuates a longstanding legacy of discrimination rooted in factual inaccuracies.

  • Historically, Irish immigrants were accused of bringing cholera, and Italians, of bringing polio to the country. Jews were blamed for tuberculosis, and Chinese immigrants, of carrying bubonic plague.
  • This high profile issue in the media has given rise to the use of scaremongering tactics to distort important information on the health of migrant children. A recent letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from Rep. Phil Gingrey does just this by falsely painting a concern for the spread of infectious diseases by migrant children and the harm they pose on the health of the nation.

“…reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning. Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles. This makes those Americans that are not vaccinated – and especially young children and the elderly – particularly susceptible…As the unaccompanied children continue to be transported to shelters around the country on commercial airlines and other forms of transportation, I have serious concerns that the diseases carried by these children may begin to spread too rapidly to control…”

In reality, unaccompanied migrant children do not carry unusual risks for the diseases they have been cited as potentially carrying.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that children arriving at US borders pose little threat of spreading diseases to the general public.  Read: “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Unaccompanied Children” at

The Evidence:

  • Vaccination rates in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are higher for common childhood diseases, such as meningococcal, measles, hemophilus influenza type b, than in the United States. These four countries comprise of 98.3% of the origins of unaccompanied children at the US Southern border.
  • Illegal immigrants are unlikely to be carrying Ebola, as human hosts are found in Africa only.
  • Dengue fever is transmitted through mosquito vector rather than human contact.
  •  71% of Americans had H1N1, the most prevalent strain of Swine flu in the past flu season.
  • Number of Tuberculosis cases in foreigners have remained constant, but tuberculosis cases in Americans have decreased.