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Commentary & Opinion
United States Should Not Deport HIV-Positive Immigrants, Opinion Piece Says

January 12, 2004

The United States should reverse its policy of deporting HIV-positive immigrants and should allow HIV-positive individuals to visit the country, columnist Jonathan Rauch writes in his National Journal column. The policy of barring HIV-positive immigrants was initiated by the Public Health Service in 1987, "when fear of AIDS was at its peak" and HIV/AIDS was "effectively untreatable," Rauch notes. As treatment for HIV/AIDS became available, public health officials began to think that the policy -- which Congress wrote into law in 1993 -- "merely drove the disease underground" and was "ineffective, if not counterproductive," according to Rauch. Immigrants are not required to take an HIV test for entry into the United States but are required to be tested when applying for a "green card," or permanent resident status, he says. Immigrants who test HIV-positive are deported "whether or not they are sick" and even if they became infected in the United States, making the policy "about kicking people out, not keeping them out," according to Rauch. Congress bars immigrants "deemed likely to become a 'public charge'" regardless of their disease; however, HIV-positive individuals are the only people who are deported even if they can demonstrate that they can "keep themselves off the welfare rolls," Rauch says. Barring all HIV-positive immigrants is "discrimination, pure and simple," and "singling out" HIV-positive immigrants for deportation will only create stigma against people living with the disease, Rauch says. The international committee of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS favors lifting the ban and will seek full council approval for opposing the policy in March, according to Rauch. If the commission votes to endorse lifting the measure, Bush will then have to decide whether to "take the case to Congress, where being seen as soft on AIDS is never popular," Rauch concludes (Rauch, National Journal, 1/10).

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