Immigrants Compared to West Nile Virus in a Politically Incorrect Article Lede That Sheriff Arpaio Would Appreciate

Immigrants are just like viruses -- they get here, adapt, and infect the rest of us.

At least, that's according to a politically incorrect lede in a San Jose Mercury News article from last Wednesday about the West Nile Virus. The lede, written by reporter Lisa Krieger, is making the rounds on the Internet after the Columbia Journalism Review published a blurb about the faux-pas. (We heard about it from a Facebook friend.)

Here's what it says:

Like any new immigrant, the deadly West Nile virus became American almost immediately after landing on our shores -- altering itself to fit in and then infecting a popular backyard bird to secure a firm foothold in its new home.

That is the startling conclusion of a decade-long analysis by UC Santa Cruz biologist Marm Kilpatrick, who explored the ecology of an infectious disease that has killed five Californians this summer and sickened another 197, up from 82 last year.

"Just like other invasive species, the virus starts adapting to its new environment," Kilpatrick said.

We know someone who wouldn't bat an eye over this one, of course -- our very own Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2009, he told GQ magazine that immigrants are disease-ridden and "dirty:"

All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There's no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don't check people? No one talks about that! They're all dirty.

Last year, Arpaio reminded the public of his efforts to link immigrants with disease after reporting that 160 jail inmates had been placed in "medical quarantine" after four suspected Mexican nationals were suspected of having chicken pox. His news release stated in part, that:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says that he has long argued the point that illegal immigration is not just a law enforcement problem but is a potential health hazard as well.

Arpaio's report wasn't quite true, but he made his scare-mongering point.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.