Republican governors whose states continue to be hard hit by COVID-19 infections have been diligently working … at demonizing asylum-seekers at the southern border. Nine right-wing governors joined Gov. Greg Abbott for a photo op in south Texas on Wednesday. There, they were armed “with an array of military vehicles in the background,” USA Today reported. And they used the stunt to push the usual xenophobic bullshit demonizing children and families who’ve sought safety at our border.
“The crisis on the southern border, in many ways, is a war,” later claimed Kristi Noem, Republican governor of noted southern border state South Dakota. She added that’s why she “sent our National Guard to help secure it.” But that move, much like her appearance at the border this week, was also a stunt. Meanwhile, Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little complained in a press release that President Joe Biden had refused to meet with him and other Republicans. I can’t imagine why in the world the president would ever refuse to meet with Idaho about the southern border.
Meanwhile, South Dakota has seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Valley News Live reported. In Idaho, ”the coronavirus took the life of a member of the lieutenant governor’s education task force that examined supposed indoctrination in Idaho schools over the summer,” Idaho Statesman reported on Thursday. The report said that the state surpassed 3,000 deaths this week.
“The cynicism of this ploy couldn’t be more obvious,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said in a statement. “They deny and dismiss the ravages of COVID-19. They want to distract from their failure to protect their state’s residents. So they fly to Texas to stage a PR stunt for the Fox News cameras. Meanwhile, COVID runs wild in their states with transmission rates being some of the highest in the country.”
It’s also bad-faith ploy from leaders who’ve made their xenophobic stances crystal-clear. The office of Nebraska’s Gov. Pete Ricketts was forced to clarify remarks he made earlier this year claiming that undocumented workers at the state’s meatpacking plants wouldn’t be eligible for the vaccine because they don’t work there. Oh, plenty do. Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds, meanwhile, has spread the “immigrants bring disease” lie, claiming that “[p]art of the problem is the southern border is open and we’ve got 88 countries that are coming across the border and they don’t have vaccines," NBC News reported in July.
This is a racist trope most recently debunked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president. “When you have 700,000 Americans dead and millions and millions and millions of Americans getting infected, you don’t want to look outside to the problem. The problem is within our own country,” he said during a CNN interview last weekend. “Certainly immigrants can get infected, but they’re not the driving force of this, let’s face reality here.” When asked if there was any truth to polling results finding 55% of Republicans believe that immigrants are to blame for infections, Fauci replied, “No, absolutely not.”
Meanwhile, what gets too often ignored are the abuses facing Black asylum-seekers and migrants in particular. Just days ago, nine Black immigrants filed a civil rights complaint over dangerous conditions while in federal immigration custody. That’s a humanitarian crisis. But you didn’t hear calls urging their release during this stunt at the border this week. “Whether DHS’s violence is highly public at the border, or behind closed doors in detention, we understand how devastating interacting with DHS can be for Black immigrants,” said UndocuBlack Network Interim Policy and Advocacy Director Breanne Palmer.
“Gov. Abbott and the rest of the governors stuffed in the Republican clown car haven’t taken COVID seriously since the pandemic began. Their goal is not to protect human life but to stir up racial animus,” said Mario Carrillo, Texas-based campaigns manager for America’s Voice. “Instead of promoting measures to help their citizens protect themselves from the pandemic, these governors are scapegoating immigrants and politicizing public health. They are putting the health of their political careers ahead of the health of their citizens.”
Carrillo also called out GOP officials for complaining plenty but having no humane or good-faith solutions charted out. “Republicans are completely uninterested in working on a bipartisan basis to constructively solve the challenges with a broken immigration system,” he continued. “The governors’ press conference today is more proof that for Republicans the border is all about politics, not substance.”