Marine Corps General John Kelly expressed fears that an Ebola epidemic in Mexico and Central America could lead to a flood of immigrants across the porous border of the United States. Speaking at the National Defense University, General Kelly – who leads U.S. Southern Command – said “If it breaks out, it's literally, "Katie bar the door.” During the public discussion, Kelly added “And there will be mass migration into the United States.”
“They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment,” said Kelly on October 7.
(Ebola warnings in Liberia)
His remarks came on the day before Thomas Eric Duncan, a citizen from Liberia, died in a Texas hospital of the dreaded virus. Duncan had travelled to the U.S. from Liberia to visit friends in Dallas. According to the Liberian government, Duncan had lied on a health form about his previous contacts with infected persons before boarding a flight that took him to the U.S.
The four-star general also warned that should Ebola infect poor countries in the Western Hemisphere such as Haiti, large numbers of people will become infected. Kelly is concerned that American authorities will not be able to contain Ebola once it arrives at airports along with infected immigrants and travellers. “By the end of the year, there's supposed to be 1.4 million people infected with Ebola and 62 percent of them dying, according to the CDC,” said the general. “That's horrific. And there is no way we can keep Ebola [contained] in West Africa.” Once the disease jumps over the Atlantic Ocean from Africa, said the general, “much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time.”
Kelly pointed out that the human trafficking networks that ferry illegal immigrants across the U.S./Mexico border may also be responsible for bringing Ebola with them. Kelly recently went on a familiarization tour of Central America. Accompanied by U.S. embassy officials, he visited the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. There they saw men “waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north.”
Kelly said “The embassy person walked over and asked who they were, and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week…They met up with the network in Trinidad and now they were on their way to the United States – illegally, of course.”
(Ebola patient and health workers)
According to Kelly, the Liberians he saw “could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola.”
Ebola patients can carry the disease for more than a week before symptoms become manifest. They are easily capable of easily transmitting the disease to others. So far this year, Ebola has killed 3,439 people in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Earlier this year, Kelly warned that budget cuts are “severely degrading” Southern Command’s ability to thwart illegal immigration. Speaking at a Congressional hearing, Kelly said that nearly 75 per cent of traffickers are left unchallenged. “I simply sit and watch it go by,” Kelly told the Armed Services Committee. “All this corruption and violence is directly or indirectly due to the insatiable U.S.demand for drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin and now methamphetamines,” Kelly said in an interview with the Defense One website in July, “all of which are produced in Latin America and smuggled into the U.S. along an incredibly efficient network along which anything – hundreds of tons of drugs, people, terrorists, potentially weapons of mass destruction or children – can travel, so long as they can pay the fare.'”
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