Immigration and epidemic disease

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Microsopic view of smallpox

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Apparently, some conservative commentators are worried that swine flu may have made its way to the US due to movement by undocumented Mexican immigrants. For once, they're right.

Well, maybe not strictly right, in this specific case, given that a significant number of cases in the US involve vacationing presumably-documented Americans.

But our nativists certainly have the right historical instincts, recalling as they do how undocumented immigrants accidentally brought epidemic disease to the Americas, causing the deaths of millions of previously-unexposed non-resistant indigenous people.

And when out nativists put forth the theory that swine flu is being secretly spread by Al Qaeda, they're remembering the stories of deliberate infection of Native Americans. (Which, it turns out, was a very limited cause, if at all, compared to the larger story. But who knows--maybe the baddies are responsible this time.)

Who says we've lost our sense of historical memory?

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