It appears that a good chunk of the right-wing campaign that’s currently trying to blame migrants for COVID-19 stems from one single incident involving a hungry family that went to eat at a Texas fast food place. “The family went to a public restaurant and began ‘coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths,’” Talking Points Memo reports that Texas recently argued in court while defending its policy targeting newly arrived migrants.
The fast food visit was an “isolated incident,” Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley said in the report. The charity rents hotel rooms where families who do test positive can quarantine, and following the incident, hired a security guard to encourage folks to stay in their rooms. It seems appropriate action was taken. But that clearly hasn’t stopped Republicans from running wild with it, TPM continued.
“[T]he story went viral nonetheless: With right-wing politicians across the country trying to deflect attention from the ongoing public health failures of the most recent spike in COVID-19, immigrants were a perfect scapegoat,” TPM continued. Just this week, a thin-skinned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis bristled at questions about the rise in cases in Florida, and falsely blamed immigrants, President Joe Biden, and a “wide-open southern border” (fact check, it’s so not open).
For the millionth time, “[n]o, the surge in coronavirus cases is not because of hundreds of thousands of migrants,” Phillip Bump reported for The Washington Post. In fact, American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick told him that “[m]igrants are in many ways the most tested group in the country. No other group of people in the entire country is being tested at a near-100 percent rate.”
Anyway, TPM notes the George W. Bush-appointed judge overseeing Texas’ case wasn’t won over by the state’s Whataburger claims, putting a temporary halt to the order. Good—and it should be permanent. And yet, “[s]ince last Tuesday, the meal has been mentioned more than a dozen times on Fox News, including on Tucker Carlson’s program, seen by millions of viewers.” Carlson as of late has been propagandizing for Hungary, shamelessly crushing over Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “virulently anti-immigrant policies and demagoguery,” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent recently wrote. No agenda there at all, nothing to see, folks.
“The fury over the Whataburger meal conveniently ignores some key issues in Texas, including that localities are still forbidden by the governor from instituting mask mandates, and that Texas’ vaccination rate lags behind the rest of the country,” TPM continued. Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida also now leads the nation in children being hospitalized due to COVID-19. DeSantis “last week issued an executive order seeking to ban school mask mandates, after the Broward and Gadsden county school systems announced plans to require masks this fall,” the report said. Nothing says “pro-life, pro-family” like sentencing children to possible long-term health problems.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has also been promoting this “immigrants bring disease” trope, which is particularly disturbing coming from someone who was, at least at one time, certified to practice medicine. “The new Republican variant of COVID-19 is a virulent strain of racism and xenophobia,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said. “Abbott spread it, Florida is accelerating it, and the GOP is getting infected by it even as they deny it. This is dangerous, reckless and could well lead to violence against Latinos and immigrants.” Yup, yup, and yup.
But, before we end here, one final observation from Texas. The fast food incident initially drew state and national attention only after a “concerned citizen” apparently saw the family and then flagged down police, CBSN Dallas-Ft. Worth reported. But TPM reports that when the La Joya Police Chief Manuel Casas was asked if “any member of society” should also get reported to cops for suspected COVID-19 symptoms, he replied “[t]hat’s something that we won’t necessarily be focusing on.” Unmasked and coughing while white: fine. In fact, encouraged by the governor. If you’re brown, have just made an arduous journey, and need something to eat, God help you.