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Swine flu: Time to close the U.S.-Mexico border?


The World Health Organization just raised the pandemic threat level to 4 out of 6 for an outbreak of what it calls the A/H1N1 virus.

In the United States, the number of swine flu cases is rising. In Mexico, where residents pictured above leave the subway with masks on, the death toll is climbing. In Europe, a health official is warning residents not to travel to either the United States or Mexico. And all over the world, stocks are tumbling as traders worry about the potential economic impact of panic on travel and commerce.

In Washington too, there has been a flurry of activity to address the outbreak.

At the White House, President Obama has added a daily swine flu update to his morning briefing schedule.

In the Senate, lawmakers finally started debating the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to head the critical Department of Health and Human Services. It's a nomination that, as The Ticket reported Monday, the Republicans have delayed. Even today, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is lobbying against Sebelius' confirmation because of the Kansas governor's support for abortion.

Finally in Congress, one lone congressman from Corning, N.Y., is calling for the White House to close the 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Democrat Eric Massa, a Naval Academy graduate and Persian Gulf War veteran who serves on the Homeland Security Committee and is also a cancer survivor who said he has "complete faith in our medical professionals," wants the border shut down.

The administration, which is working instead to rush antiviral medicines to the states, thinks closing the border is a bad idea.

For one thing, the spread of the disease has already started, making a border closure kind of like closing the barn door after the animals have escaped.

For another, closing the border is nearly impossible. If the United States could close its border with Mexico, illegal immigration might not have become the divisive and emotional issue that it has been.

Adding to the mix: The president is trying to calm people, not alarm them.

But mostly, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained this morning, the economic and human costs of closing the border outweigh any conceivable benefits.

"We think that what we're doing now at the land ports and the airports makes sense," she said on NBC's "Today Show." Asked whether border closure is under review, she added: "That's something that can be considered, but you have to look at what the costs are. We literally have thousands of trucks and commerce that cross that border.... That would be a very, very heavy cost for what epidemiologists tell us would be marginal" benefit in containing the virus.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (17)

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Close the border to all but commercial traffic and require commercial traffic to wear surgical masks.
Begin preparations for a complete lock down with planned troop movements etc. If this goes Pandemic, people will be fleeing Mexico (ground zero) and we need to lock them out as best we can.
Prepare to close all air traffic but first make all going in and out of mexico don surgical masks to prevent passenger spread of the illness.
It has already spread rapidly by airflight but we need to stop it now.

Now??????? ,the question of closing the border! That
500,000 per year have been crossing illegally for years
proves without military it may be too late to save
the state from ALL the effects of being a
Third World Distopia!

4/29/09 and the first American has died, an innocent baby. It is time to close all air traffic in and out of Mexico, close the borders to non commercial traffic, start providing tamiflu & surgical masks to all commercial traffic, prepare units to close the border(a fleeing flood could be coming, hoping to acceess our emergency care as well as flee the killing zone), and beef up air and land border patrols to scare illegals from crossing over with the bug.

omg - it's being reported today that 91 people have swine flu now. I say its too late to close the border. It's too late to stop this virus. As of now, .0000002 % of the population are suffering from this horrible outbreak. We need to slaughter all pigs now and add at least $5 billion dollars to the budget if we are to overcome this as a country. Kudos to the administration for handling this intelligently and not over-hypeing the true severity of this crisis.

pandering to mexico?? and not protecting Americans is a disgrace. We shouldnt even be going thru this,, gangs, drug wars now this,, this is gods way of stoping obamas amnesty plans that will destroy us

actually pom pom girl, that poor baby was an illegal with her parents who came over here from mexico, they wernt americans very sad,, they need to close the border


very funny, closing the border with mexico isn't going to work out, because u already have the virus in your country.
maybe someone next to u could have the virus.
this virus dont ask nationality, we are all human being.
thank god some people won't ever run this country government. people asking for closing borders is most dangerous than same virus. if u want to do it, it's your right.

The border should be closed, not only because of the swine flu virus now, but for years they have came over here for nothing but crime, all aspects of crime, get all illeagal's out of here.

When Joe Biden was being interviewd by Matt Lauer on the Today show and used that lame "horse has left the barn" reasoning for not closing the border Mr. Lauer pointed out that is nonsense. When the horse leaves the barn there are no more horses to lose. But there are thousands of potentially sick Mexicans still coming across our borders and so we have much more to lose. And we're talking about disease and possibly death not horses. This is happening because politicians value commerce more than the health of the American people.
In Asia they are scanning incoming people with devices that can sense their body temperature and if it's over 100 they are taken aside and screened. We, THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH (yeah, right) can't manage the same degree of caution. More evidence of just how corrupted we have become. More reasons for the infuriation level of the American people to rise. Remember the French revolution when the aristocracy simply wouldn't listen anymore? Remember the American revolution when King George wouldn't listen? Remember what happened?

Well, I think if you close the border even at this late stage, there would be less people coming over from Mexico with the flu to take advantage of our already overburdened health care system. Sorry, but we can't support the whole world! We're so far in debt now that we'll never dig ourselves out! I say close the darn border now and keep it closed. I'm tired of the gangs, drugs, etc.!

I love your comment. You are so right about the people starting to think revolution!

Closing the border would help deter even more disease, pestilence, freeloaders, baby gang members, drugs, corruption, and criminals from coming in. It's not too late. What was too late was Mexicon's government's actions to protect both their own people and the rest of the world because of one of their great national pass times, lying. Mexicon has one of the highest assassination rates of journalists is the world. Truth is Public Enemy #1 there and he/she who tells it must be exterminated. I was threatened with my life twice there for "making too much noise", and I'm not a journalist, but a victim of grand theft auto by Mexican federal gov't officials who in turn, proceeded to mutilate my passport, forge my signature and tried to force me to pay extortion, which I refused to do. I've just only recently removed a pair of con-artists living in my home there who never paid 1 cent of rent for two and a half years. Not until the husband was arrested for kidnapping - the first such incident of that in the area - was I able to get the con-wife out, by...paying extortion. Nevermind the stolen car in the garage. They utterly destroyed my property, the swine. Mexicon loves and protects its criminals and its laws further protect them, making it impossible for any property owner to evict such human trash.
Their minister of "health" lied at the very onset of the soon-to-be pandemic swine flu and even acknowledged it. He now continues the lies telling the world that only a few deaths were attributed to the swine flu. Hogwash!
That rats' nest is nothing but a country of lying thieves and criminals. I lived there for 20 years and witnessed this on a daily basis. It's absolutely repugnant.

W.Zahn - Right ON!
Melody - Right ON, except all the murderers were left out of your comment. Six of the 11 SoCal's Most Wanted Fugitives are Mexican, all wanted for murder except one, who is wanted for attempted murder of a police officer with an assault rifle...
Juanbas - Closing the borders is dangerous??? LMAO! Tu ingles es pesimo, aprendalo bien. You must be talking about your country, Mexicon, where crime and corruption are king. Anyone defending such swill has got to be an illegal or a gang member...

I do not think it is too late! If we close the border than there would be less mexicans coming in and that would allow the virus to settle down. If we do not close the border than the virus will spread like crazy. So as an american, I say close the dang border!!

The borders should be closed until January 2010 to assure without a doubt any aggressive mutation of the disease cannot mount a plague.
Unfortunately the investment bank Goldman Sachs along with its cronies inside the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are controlling President Obama to leave the borders open and have orchestrated to have the unvieling of their "stress test on the banks results" to coincide with the Mexican government's lifting of its lockdown.
As is par for the course in America today, "greed" is dictating policy over the public's welfare. Unfortunately greed's pandemic doesn't appear it will ever stop until half the poplulation drops dead!

close off the stupid could america be. why would the U.S. close the door on something that has already entered. that is like saying a burglar breaks in to your home and you lock all the doors so you nor the burglar can leave. i think america is doing the right thing by keeping the border open. you never know we might need mexico one day and if we close the border i believe this would come up.

I say close the borders. Its time that the US takes care of its own people. Like a few of you have already said, we are broke, we are in debt. Has anybody ever gotten on family Family watchdog is a site just like megans law. Look at Texas, San antonio for example. Look at all the mexican sex offenders in Texas. The majority of sex offenders in Texas, are Mexican. Stay in Mexico. Thats all I have to say.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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