On restricting immigaration of HIV patients

| Comments (2) | Misc
I totally agree that banning (or even significantly restricting) people with HIV from entering the US is nuts, but despite Andrew Sullivan's protestations to the contrary, it's really not unenforceable.

This law has lasted so long because no domestic constituency lobbies for its repeal. Immigrants or visitors with HIV are often too afraid to speak up. The ban itself is also largely unenforceable -- it's impossible to take blood from all those coming to America, hold them until the results come through and then deport those who test positive. Enforcement occurs primarily when immigrants volunteer their HIV status -- as I have -- or apply for permanent residence. The result is not any actual prevention of HIV coming into the United States but discrimination against otherwise legal immigrants who are HIV-positive.

Rapid HIV tests are readily available, and the OraQuick test involves only an oral swab and reads out in 20 minutes minutes. It wouldn't be at all hard to design an immigration system that forced people to go through oral HIV testing. You'd just need somewhere to hold them for 20 minutes, which I suspect CBP could easily arrange.

More to the point, the idea that for such a ban to be enforceable requires point of entry testing strikes me as basically wrong. We have a whole array of immigration controls (not a terrorist, not a nazi, etc.) that are based on matching up information that's indexed by personal identity (i.e., your name, age, passport #, etc.) against the person standing in front of the immigration agent. But those checks to a great extent rely on accurate record keeping and enforcement by the country who issued that individual's passport. If my country of origin doesn't bother to check identity before issuing passports, I'll be able to get in even if I'm actually Osama bin Laden. The United States certainly could require that people who wish to enter the country come with a certification that they've had recent HIV testing and are HIV negative. Those who didn't could be deported or tested on entry.

Even absent such infrastructure, there are plenty of immigration requirements that don't get routinely checked but if you're found to have lied are used as the basis for prosecution or deportation. When Mrs. Guesswork got her green card, they asked her if she was a Nazi. I doubt they checked up on that, but I'm sure if it later came out that she was Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS they'd find some way to punish her.


Hang on...

Does asking "if she was a Nazi" mean asking whether she was a real (as opposed to neo) Nazi (NSDAP member, KZ guard, etc.) or whether she is now or has ever been a member of a group that espoused $FOO supremacy, elimination of non-$FOO people, etc?

Unless you're in a serious May-December relationship, the idea that she could be a Nazi in the former sense is logically impossible, isn't it?

My memory (and it's only a memory since it was years ago) was that the question was actually whether you had been a real nazi, because it was just on some standard form that they hadn't revised in decades.

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