Republicans won't stop falsely blaming immigrants for COVID case spikes


As COVID-19 cases surge once again, Republican lawmakers are using xenophobia to blame immigrants — and not their own unvaccinated base — for the problem.

Republican lawmakers seem hell-bent on blaming the latest surge of COVID-19 cases on migrants at the southern border, using racist and xenophobic rhetoric as the delta variant tears through the United States.

However, there is no evidence to support their claims that migrants are to blame for the latest rise in cases. In reality, the places seeing the biggest spikes are Southern states that are not on the border — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana. In the last four states, vaccination rates are far below the national average, with Florida hovering around the national average.

Nevertheless, Republicans have ratcheted up their claims against immigrants in the last week, as cases rapidly increased in the United States and new mask requirements were put in place in several states.

And they've kept up that rhetoric this week, with multiple lawmakers blaming migrants at the border for the surges rather than their own unvaccinated residents.

"The Biden Administration is the biggest super spreader!" Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) tweeted Thursday morning. "They refuse to secure the border. They refuse to STOP letting COVID positive individuals enter illegally and are sending them to municipalities all over the country."

Malliotakis is blaming immigrants even though her own district — one that has seen a surge in cases, which New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio attributed to low vaccination rates — is the whitest and least diverse borough of New York City, according to Census Bureau data. Nearly 75% of Staten Island is white, the highest of all five of New York City's boroughs, and just 23% foreign-born, the least of all of the five boroughs.

While there have been reports that COVID-19 testing has been scant at Border Patrol facilities, reports indicate that immigrants are being tested or quarantined when they are found to be infected with the virus.

In places like Texas, for example, nonprofits like Catholic Charities have stepped in to provide testing and quarantine facilities for those found to be infected. And in California, Jewish Family Service of San Diego is working to provide testing and quarantine facilities.

"All asylum seekers receive health screenings and stay in hotel rooms before travel, following all public health guidelines," Eitan Peled, a border services advocate with the Jewish Family Service, told Politifact, adding that migrants are released to families once they have negative COVID-19 results.

All the while, cases of COVID-19 are spiking in non-border regions where vaccination rates are low and public safety measures — like requiring masks indoors — are frowned upon.

For example, Florida — which is not a border state — is currently seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. The daily average of cases has surged 119% in the last two weeks, now standing at 17,757 cases, according to data from the New York Times. The state also has the highest rate of hospitalizations, with 51 out of every 100,000 residents hospitalized with the disease, per the Times' data.

With just 49% of the state is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times report, GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis railing against vaccine mandates and masks.

DeSantis signed a bill in May prohibiting so-called "vaccine passports" that bans businesses from requiring that patrons get vaccinated in order to receive service. He's also banned mask requirements, even in schools where many children are still ineligible to be vaccinated and thus not protected against the virus.

Pervasive xenophobia that puts the blame on migrants for the spread of COVID-19 is heavily rooted in white supremacy.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center from April 2020 — near the start of the pandemic — found that anti-immigrant hate groups were blaming the pandemic on immigrants, something those same groups had done in the past.

And during former President Donald Trump's tenure, anti-immigrant crusader and Trump aide Stephen Miller tried to use the false and racist belief that immigrants carry disease in order get Trump to block asylum-seekers from being able to come to the United States.

It was the COVID-19 pandemic that Trump eventually used to sign a Title 42 policy, which closed the border to nearly all asylum-seekers. The Biden administration has maintained that policy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.