BATON ROUGE – LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute Assistant Professor Jude Egan, in studying a potential unanticipated vulnerability in the pandemic/public health response system regarding the H1N1 Flu for Catholic Charities and the Center for Disease Control, focused on the challenge posed by the illegal immigrant community. Egan’s guidance suggested the federal government should cease enforcement of immigration laws in favor of treatment and testing for H1NI, in addition to other preventative measures.
“My point was not to make a political argument,” Egan said “Rather it was to look at the ways in which the service sector's reliance on undocumented labor has created a critical part of our nation's food infrastructure and the way that previous research and anecdotes suggest that undocumented immigrants do not seek health care or services during a disaster for fear of deportation and laws that deny all but emergency care to undocumented immigrants.”
The result, according to Egan, is a class of resident in the United States that is both a critical component of the food infrastructure and yet does not receive care during an emergency. In a public health crisis, such as H1N1, treatment of all potential vectors of disease, whether teens returning from spring break or undocumented immigrants, is the key to limiting spread.
Egan, whose research focuses on spotting organizational vulnerabilities, especially those that result from unanticipated consequences of the law, suggested that Catholic Charities and the CDC “respond to the presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States” and to “think of how law and organizational protocols can facilitate operations rather than engaging in the political questions behind the question of whether that presence is good or bad.”
“This is essentially the same type of organizational and legal question that we can ask about rail safety, supply chain management or continuity of business operations,” Egan said. “How can legal and organizational structures facilitate operational performance? In what unanticipated ways do institutional structures hinder performance and what changes could be made to change this?”
In addition to the suspension of immigration laws, Egan also suggested the federal government develop mobile public health centers for testing and treatment of undocumented immigrants, make public health information available in multiple languages and encourage employers to give employees time off work if they or a family member are sick.
“I use a systems based method of analysis that focuses on how institutional and organizational level variables impact results at the operations level—thus, reversing traditional ‘fault tree’ analysis that moves from the particular accident, or near-miss, backward toward root causes and instead starting at the general and anticipating future vulnerabilities,” Egan said. “Because I am also trained as a lawyer, I often use law as a starting point, such as a forthcoming article co-authored with Lloyd Burton at CU-Denver about how federal rail legislation has, in effect, decreased rail safety and in part contributed to the Metrolink rail disaster.”
The Stephenson Disaster Management Institute, an integral part of LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business, was established to help save the lives of people and animals by continuously improving disaster response management through research and education. Vision and a generous donation by LSU alumni Emmet and Toni Stephenson were responsible for the creation of the institute in 2007. For more information, visit http://www.bus.lsu.edu/sdmi or call 225-578-0238.