By Shannon Knutsen and Charles C. Johnson
Contrary to White House claims that the border is secure for ailments, there’s only ONE quarantine station along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest briefed reporters on the Obama Administration’s response to the Ebola “incident.” Earnest informed the press about “screening procedures in place at our border.”
“So as individuals enter the country, they are observed by Customs and Border Patrol and others to protect the broader American public. So there’s nothing about this case that we know so far that would indicate any weakness or any flaws in that system right now.” [Emphasis Gotnews.com]
So what about our borders? What protocol DOES the Administration have in place? What precautions are being taken to ensure that an immigrant– or an extremist doesn’t cross the U.S.-Mexico border carrying Ebola or another deadly infectious disease?
Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have a mutual agreement to monitor infectious diseases at Border Crossings or Points of Entry (POE). The responsibility for screening arriving immigrants falls on Border Patrol officers who are required to report signs of infectious disease to CDC Quarantine Stations maintained along U.S. borders.
So… how many Quarantine Stations does the CDC have operating along the U.S.-Mexico border, where millions of illegal immigrants cross into America every year? How many Quarantine Stations does the Administration deem sufficient to assist Border Patrol agents with protecting the United States from a deadly outbreak of infectious disease?
ONE. Allow me to repeat that… There’s only one.
The CDC’s El Paso Quarantine station is single-handedly responsible for monitoring the ENTIRE border.
According to a CDC report, the lone El Paso Quarantine Station has just “one medical officer and one public health advisor who are responsible for responding to these public health threats at 29 POEs [Points of Entry] spread over 1,200 miles of the U.S.–Mexico border.”
The CDC has previously expressed its OWN concerns about the ability of Customs & Border Patrol to effectively screen for infectious diseases. A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 2010 warned of “limitations of detecting ill travelers en route.”
The report noted that screening and reporting of public health threats on the U.S.-Mexico border may be “limited” by Customs & Border Patrol’s “need for rapid processing of travelers” and “The large volume of travelers crossing at international POEs makes identification and reporting of infectious diseases difficult.”
The CDC also expressed concerns about Border Patrol agents’ “competing priorities” and “limited public health training.”
Despite the CDC’s own doubts about the capability of Border Patrol officers to monitor the massive wave of illegal immigrants currently flowing into the United States, the Obama Administration has failed to put forth any effort to increase the presence of CDC Quarantine Stations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A recent 2014 Congressional Research paper published for Capitol Hill REAFFIRMED the CDC’s earlier concerns about U.S. Border Patrol’s ability to operate effectively in the event of an infectious outbreak:
The August 2014 CRS report also CONFIRMS the CDC’s continued lack of presence along the U.S. border and reveals shocking flaws in the Administration’s system to protect public health and safeguard our borders from Ebola and other deadly diseases:
“CBP officers are responsible for observing all travelers for obvious signs and symptoms of quarantinable and communicable diseases… However, CBP officers are not medically trained or qualified to physically examine or diagnose illness among arriving travelers.”
“Even fully staffed quarantine stations are not in a position to perform routine health screening on all passengers crossing the border as a standard operating procedure.”
Over the last week, the message from the White House has been one of constant reassurance that we are being protected by a “system” of stringent protocols and safety precautions. However, reports from within the Obama Administration directly contradict this notion, indicating the existence of serious flaws and weaknesses in the “system” that’s currently in place.
Last week’s assertion from the White House and Josh Earnest that … there’s nothing about this case that we know so far that would indicate any weakness or any flaws in that system right now. “… was blatantly false.
We’ve been very fortunate thus far, but how much time do we have before that luck runs out? How much longer until Ebola, once again, breaches the “system”? If ever there was a time to lock down our borders and get serious about immigration security, the time is now… before it’s too late.