A “large percentage” of illegals captured trying to enter the United States through Mexico are from West Africa, said the commander of the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) in explaining how his team is keeping an eye on the Ebola crisis.
West Africans are traveling through the Western Hemisphere on their way into the United States illegally and coming in contact with nations that are ill-prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak.
Speaking to an audience at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. on October 7, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, the SOUTHCOM commander, said that U.S. government agencies are “certainly aware of the possibility, and likelihood frankly, of Ebola coming to the Western Hemisphere.”
Gen. Kelly noted that he thinks Ebola will eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, adding that the “nightmare scenario is right around the corner” and his team is preparing for it.
“Of the homeland security folks doing their work on our southwest border, of the number of people they capture, a very large percentage of them are West Africans,” Gen. Kelly told the audience.
The West Africans area coming in contact with individuals in Western Hemisphere nations on their way into the United States.
He related a story of a group of Liberians who were spotted on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border on their way into the U.S. illegally.
“They had flown in to I think Trinidad and then met up with traffickers and now are on the way in,” said Gen. Kelly. “They could have made it into New York City and still be within the incubation period of Ebola.”
“So I go back to this issue and I’ve highlighted this issue in Washington that if there is an outbreak in the caribbean particularly or in Central America, it will make the 68,000 unaccompanied children, I think, look like a small problem,” he continued.
Countries in the Western Hemisphere are ill-prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak, according to the general.
A spread of the virus, particularly in Haiti and Central American republics, would fuel a mass migration into the United States.
“Many countries in the Western Hemisphere have about no ability to deal with an Ebola outbreak,” said Kelly. “So much like in Western Africa, it will rage for some period of time, particularly if it gets to a place like Haiti or if it gets to Central America.”
“If Ebola breaks out in Haiti or in Central America, I think it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door’ in terms of the mass migration of Central Americans into the United States,” he also said, later adding, “So these populations will move to either run away from Ebola or in the fear of having been infected to get to the United States where they will be taken care of.”
He told the audience that the Ebola issue keeps him up at night.
Citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as the source, Gen. Kelly said that by the end of the year an estimated “1.4 million people will have been infected by Ebola and probably 62 percent or something like that will have died.”
“That’s horrific,” he said, adding that “there’s no way you can keep Ebola in West Africa.”