Mo Brooks: 'Illegal aliens' may be to blame for measles outbreak

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks during a news conference with House and Senate members on immigration on Sept. 9, 2014.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks during a news conference with House and Senate members on immigration on Sept. 9, 2014.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has an idea of who is to blame for America's measles outbreak.

In an interview with conservative radio host Matt Murphy Tuesday, Brooks suggested that not only were undocumented immigrants bringing diseases across the U.S. border, but that they likely have caused a number of deaths of American children. "I don’t think there is any health care professional who has examined the facts who can honestly say that Americans have not died because the diseases brought into America by illegal aliens who are not properly health care screened as lawful immigrants are," Brooks said.

Public health officials are scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that spans across 14 states and has reignited a debate over vaccines and the extent to which parents can choose whether to vaccinate their children against easily preventable diseases.

Brooks suggested that migrants who cross the southwestern border of the United States might be a factor in the latest outbreak. "It might be the enterovirus that has a heavy presence in Central and South America that has caused deaths of American children over the past 6 to 9 months," Brooks said Tuesday. "It might be this measles outbreak. There are any number of things.”

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It's not the first time that Republican elected officials have made alarmist claims linking headline-grabbing public health concerns to immigrant communities. Last summer, when thousands of unaccompanied minors fled from Central America to the U.S.'s southern border, Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, a retired Georgia physician, stoked fears that the children were bringing the fatal Ebola virus with them. Others raised alarms of outbreaks of scabies, lice and chicken pox.

In his radio interview Tuesday, Brooks said that though he was sympathetic to the "plight of the illegal aliens" who do not have broad access to health care, he believes American children are in danger. "Unfortunately our kids just aren’t prepared for a lot of the diseases that come in and are born by illegal aliens," he said, later suggesting that immigrant students may not be properly screened before entering public schools in the U.S. "That requirement, to some degree, is suspended for illegal alien children. That exposes American children to diseases they might otherwise not have been exposed to."