Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu: Cause to Close Down Borders?

Yesterday, the World Health Organization raised its alert level to 5, the second highest warning in the global-alert system. The alert has never been this high, and health officials say that the time for containment of the swine flu virus has passed, and that mitigation is now where the response system should focus it's efforts.

It is no surprise, in the face of such an approach, that many people are panicking at the prospect of a likely pandemic and are calling for the United States to close down its border with Mexico. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, for example, have expressed their frustration as to why the president has not banned travel south of the border.

President Obama, in response, has been quoted as saying that closing down the borders to Mexico now that the virus has already entered the United States is akin to "closing the barn door after the horse is out." Officials from various disease control organizations echo this sentiment, stating that closing the borders could actually cripple the country's ability to combat the disease as items crucial to administering health care to infected patients are made outside the country, including the main ingredient in Tamiflu, the primary drug used to treat the swine flu virus.

In this increasingly interdependent world economy, it can be argued that traditional concepts of borders and separate, independent economies is rapidly becoming obsolete, especially in instances such as these when the whole world could potentially be threatened. The current swine flu crisis presents the opportunity to have your students discuss in what direction they think United States foreign policy should go in the future.

Ask students to think about the following statement issued by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization at a press conference in Geneva, in reaction to the news that several countries had shut down their borders. She heartily disagreed with the tactic, stating, "After all, it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic."

Have students examine Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and review the enumerated powers of congress, and identify which ones may apply to the concerns posed by an international crisis such as the swine flu. Have a discussion about their thoughts on shutting the borders down.

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