Opinion: Silly paranoia: Ebola might reach the U.S. via unaccompanied Latino minors

Andy Tobin, Cheryl Flake
Arizona congressional candidate Andy Tobin, right, with Cheryl Flake, wife of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. Tobin has speculated that the ebola virus could reach the U.S. via unaccompanied minors from Central America. Seriously.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

By now we should be inured to the inanities of American politics, but every now and then the craziness just astounds. Witness Andy Tobin, an Arizona state legislative leader running in a three-way Republican primary for a congressional seat now held by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick.

Border issues are a legitimate local concern in Arizona, which, with other southwestern states, bears the brunt of the flow of illegal immigration, though Arizona hasn’t always handled that stress with aplomb.

Tobin has dragged the discussion to new lows. He told the Tucson Weekly recently that the ebbing flow of unaccompanied minors across the border could expose American citizens to the ebola virus. Which emanates from Africa. Per the Weekly:

“Tobin says he’s hearing about worries from constituents that the recent wave of undocumented youth from Central America could cause an Ebola outbreak in the United States.


“‘Anything’s now possible,’ Tobin said last week. ‘So if you were to say the Ebola virus has now entered (the country), I don’t think anyone would be surprised.’

“Tobin acknowledged that Ebola has been limited to outbreaks in Africa, ‘to the extent that they’re really aware of that. I think there is a reason we should be concerned about it and say, “Hey, can you assure us the people crossing the border are not from the Middle East?” ... So I use that as an example, that the public would not be surprised to hear about the next calamity at the border.’”

The Middle East, if you look at your globe, is still far from West Africa, where the outbreaks began, including the current record-setting epidemic, and farther still from Central America. Maybe Tobin thinks the virus will fly across the Atlantic on the backs of tse-tse flies.

For Tobin to give credence to paranoid scenarios that somehow an African virus would find its way to Tucson via the the Middle East and impoverished Honduran children displays either an attenuated sense of logic, or base fear-mongering. Neither is particularly admirable for a potential member of Congress.


Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle.

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