Rob Wilson, Ph.D.
Final Abstract for URS Program
Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It most commonly affects the lungs, but it can develop elsewhere in the body. Untreated, tuberculosis usually leads to death. If tuberculosis is treated but consumption of the proper medicine is terminated prematurely, the bacteria can mutate into multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). In the United States, the largest percentage of people with tuberculosis are foreign-born individuals. This is due to a number of factors, including cultural stigmas associated with tuberculosis and a hesitancy to get treatment. This is an especially prevalent issue in the case of illegal immigrants. First of all, these illegal immigrants probably were not screened for tuberculosis before arriving in the US, and therefore may not even know when they are infected. Second of all, even if they are aware that they are sick, most of them will avoid treatment because they fear being deported. The situation is only worsened by laws such as California’s Proposition 187, introduced in 1994, which denies healthcare to illegal immigrants and requires doctors to report them to the immigration authorities. This law removes both the motivation and the resources for illegal immigrants to get treated for tuberculosis. Instead of fixing the problem of immigration, laws like Prop 187 make the tuberculosis situation in the United States worse, because they increase the likelihood that untreated immigrants will spread the disease to those around them.