Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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David Vitter's Deportation Proposal Could Require More Planes Than There Are on Earth

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 6:31 PM EDT

David Vitter has had it with undocumented immigrants. "Enough is enough," the Republican Senator and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate tweeted on Friday. "I introduced a bill to require mandatory detention for anyone here illegally & get illegal aliens on the next plane home."

The legislation Vitter introduced Friday doesn't actually require all immigrants to be detained and deported. It mostly applies to child migrants, 70,000 of whom will make their way to the United States from Central America this year. Specifically, unaccompanied minors without asylum claims would be put "on the next available flight to their home countries within 72 hours of an initial screening."

But if we really tried to do what Vitter's tweet suggests—and why not? He's a senator!—it would entail increasing the nation's immigration detention capacity by a factor of 365. And flying all those immigrants home would require more planes than currently exist.

The math is simple. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are 11 million people currently in the United States without permanent legal status, the bulk of them from Latin America. In 2011, the average flight to that region had room for 171.8 passengers. It would require 64,027 flights to move all those migrants. Unfortunately, there were only 7,185 commercial aircraft in the United States as of 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, so the mass deportations might take a while, especially considering Tegucigalpa's Toncontín International Airport boasts "the world's trickiest landing."

Even if other nations chipped in, it'd still be a tough row to hoe. According to Boeing, there are only 20,310 commercial airliners in the world, although that figure is set to double by 2032, if we want to wait. 

These back-of-the-envelope calculations don't take into account other details, like the costs and logistics of finding and rounding up 11 million people. On the plus side, the amount of jet fuel required for Vitter's plan would be a boon for the oil and gas industry—one of Louisiana's largest employers.

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GOP Congressman Says Central America Too Dangerous for Congressmen—But Not for Kids

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 6:38 PM EDT

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who spent the weekend visiting Honduras and Guatemala with six other members of Congress, reaffirmed his belief on Wednesday that the ongoing humanitarian crisis along the southern border is to send migrants home—even though he found his host city too dangerous to go outside.

Per the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Congressman Steve Pearce said Wednesday that most immigrants from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States are driven by economic reasons, not fear of physical danger in their homeland.

...

Pearce said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers, but the message they received in both countries was consistent: "Send back our children."

So to recap: Tegucigalpa is too dangerous for grown members of Congress to leave their downtown hotel rooms, but a perfectly fine place to send an eight-year-old kid. (According to a press release, the congressional delegation did leave their hotel to visit an outreach center funded by the US government. They also met with the president and first lady of Honduras.) Meanwhile, not content with the results of Pearce's investigation, a rival Congressional delegation, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is en route to Central America now. We'll see if they find it safe enough to walk around.

Todd Akin Is Still Talking About Rape—and Suggests Bill Clinton Is a Rapist

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 11:12 AM EDT

Todd Akin won't stop talking. And he won't stop talking about rape. On Thursday, the former Republican Missouri congressman and failed Senate candidate—best known for suggesting that the female body could self-terminate a pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape"—appeared on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown to talk about his new book, Firing Back, and to explain why he was totally right about the rape thing. During the 10-minute spot, he insisted that "legitimate rape is a law enforcement term." (He did not cite a source for this.) And he pointed out that Bill Clinton was accused of committing rape and "assault on women," yet the former president was applauded when he delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic convention. "Seems to me, it's a Democratic war on women," Akin remarked.

Contradicting his comment about a woman's ability to "shut that whole thing down"—that is, to prevent conception following a rape—Akin claimed that he "had a number of people" working on his Senate campaign who "had been conceived in rape."

Watch:

GOP Congressman Who Warned About Unvaccinated Migrants Opposed Vaccination

| Mon Jul. 14, 2014 2:29 PM EDT

Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a dire warning: Some of the child refugees streaming across the southern border into the United States might carry deadly diseases. "Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning," Gingrey wrote. "Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles."

Gingrey's analysis carried an aura of credibility among conservatives, because, as Judicial Watch noted, the congressman is "also [a] medical doctor." But his two-page letter is filled with false charges—there's no evidence that migrants carry Ebola or that they're less likely to be vaccinated—from an inconvenient messenger: The congressman has himself pushed legislation to discourage some kinds of mandatory vaccinations in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola virus has only ever affected humans in sub-Saharan Africa. (It has been found in China and the Philippines, but has never caused an illness, let alone a fatality.) Central America is far away from sub-Saharan Africa:

Central America is on the left. Google Maps

Ebola has a 50 percent mortality rate and a remarkably short life-span, so it's safe to assume that if it had somehow made its way across the Atlantic to our own hemisphere, we would've heard it by now; some congressman probably would've sent a letter. But apparently Ebola fearmongering can travel across the Atlantic even if the disease can't: A similar allegation was leveled in Italy last spring, with activists warning that migrants from Guinea were bringing Ebola with them to the peninsula. (Although false, the claim was at least more plausible: There is an Ebola outbreak in Guinea.)

Gingrey's misdiagnoses aren't confined to Ebola. As the Texas Observer points out, when it comes to measles, children in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are more likely to be vaccinated than children in the United States. None of those countries have recorded an outbreak of measles in 24 years. Kids in Marin County are more at risk.

Gingrey has long-standing ties to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a far-right medical group that opposes all mandatory vaccines. The organization touts access to Gingrey as one of its membership perks. (The AAPS has, incidentally, taken the lead in pushing the idea that migrant children are disease carriers.) In 2007, he wrote an amendment that would allow parents to block their children from receiving HPV vaccines, which are designed to combat cervical cancer.

Now that he's got a full-time job in Washington, Gingrey doesn't spend as much time practicing medicine as he used to. Maybe he could use a refresher.

For more of Mother Jones' reporting on unaccompanied child migrants, see all of our latest coverage here.

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