Republicans recently panicking over rising COVID-19 cases stemming from unvaccinated Americans and their own inept governance have found their common enemy to blame: immigrants. Now joining Texans Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott is Floridian Ron DeSantis, who is dumb enough to have no fucking clue how to put on a mask but apparently smart enough to figure out who’s to blame for this caseload: immigrants. He has no proof, but it’s immigrants, he insisted on Wednesday.
“Joe Biden is taken to himself to try to single out Florida over COVID,” the Orlando Sentinel reports DeSantis said. It was supposed to be a press conference about hurricane assistance, but DeSantis, as infamously thin-skinned as his Mar-a-Lago hero, instead launched into lies about immigrants. “He’s imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border, you have hundreds of thousands of people pouring across every month,” he claimed. “So he’s facilitating who knows what new variants are out there.”
First, the facts: “Florida is heading towards a pandemic peak that may dwarf even this winter's numbers; 1 in 5 of all U.S. COVID-19 cases are now in DeSantis' jurisdiction; hospitals and other health resources are warning that they are facing crisis conditions; and the state continues to lag behind in vaccinations in large part because of DeSantis' own sneering political attacks on health officials,” my colleague Hunter wrote earlier today.
None of that is because of immigrants or the southern border; I mean, even the geography doesn’t square up. Yet that’s not stopping Ron and gang from spewing this racist “immigrants bring disease” trope. I feel like I’ve been repeating that last thing ad nauseam, but maybe it’s because Republicans have been racist ad nauseam. I mean, it’s also really no surprise that as soon as they start feeling the heat, they blame immigrants. It’s a tale as old as time.
“At this point, we could explain that the border is not, in reality, the problem,” MSNBC’s Steve Bennn writes. “We could also explain that Florida is one of the hemisphere's largest peninsulas—it's largely surrounded by water—and it shares a border with Georgia and Alabama, not Mexico. But there's ultimately no real point in even taking DeSantis' rhetoric seriously as a substantive argument, because it's not. The governor doesn't have a plan to deal with his state's intensifying public-health crisis; he opposes policies that might help for purely political reasons; and he's on the defensive after the president helped expose his indifference.”
Then there’s also DeSantis’ claim about a “wide-open southern border.” For Christ’s sake (forgive me, Mom, for taking the Lord’s name in vain), the Biden administration just this past Monday announced that it was keeping in place the Stephen Miller-pushed anti-asylum policy that has proved more effective in keeping out asylum-seekers than any stupid physical wall. The previous president’s unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, literally cheered the president’s decision to keep Title 42 in place.
Some folks have criticized immigrant rights advocates for calling for an end to this inhumane policy, arguing that it’ll give Republicans ammunition. But even with Title 42 continuing indefinitely, Republicans continue declaring “a wide-open southern border” anyway. Meanwhile, it’s asylum-seekers and families who are the ones left paying the price of this political gamesmanship.
“Ron Desantis and his incompetence led Florida to a place where the state accounts for 23% of hospitalizations nationwide and hospitals are suspending elective procedures,” tweeted Thomas Kennedy. The Florida advocate has been keeping DeSantis’ feet to the fire to the point that the thin-skinned Republican had Kennedy labeled a “known agitator” and barred from his press conferences. “To deflect, he scapegoats immigrants as usual,” Kennedy continued. “What an absolutely disgusting and cowardly thing to do.”