Republicans are using the pandemic as an excuse to target immigrants


Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has filed a bill to deport all detained immigrants during the COVID-19 crisis.

Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress are finding new ways to demonize immigrants and push for hard-line immigration policies during the pandemic.

Though research has shown that immigrants do not take jobs away from American citizens and experts have warned that anti-immigrant policies could make the pandemic even worse, these politicians have pushed to seal the borders and kick immigrants out, citing the COVID-19 crisis.

Trump administration

Trump issued an April 22 proclamation to suspend and limit most "aliens as immigrants" from entering the country, citing the pandemic's economic slowdown as his rationale. Before that, he shut down most border crossing and used an obscure law relating to public health to launch a massive anti-immigrant crackdown. He also has threatened to withhold aid to states that do not support his efforts to deport immigrants.

His immigration czar, Ken Cuccinelli, tweeted and endorsed a "VERY powerful article" from the right-wing outlet Daily Caller last month, arguing that the COVID-19 crisis would be much worse had Trump not addressed the "border crisis."

A New York Times report on Sunday noted that Trump strategist Stephen Miller has been pushing for years for the administration to use public health powers to crack down on immigration. But studies have shown that migrants and refugees do not generally spread diseases to their new homes and are themselves among the most vulnerable to illnesses.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

Gaetz introduced a bill on Tuesday to require that all detained undocumented immigrants be deported during national emergencies like this one. Last week, he appeared on Fox News to explain his Protect American Nationals During Emergencies by Mitigating the Immigration Crisis (PANDEMIC) Act.

"Instead of releasing criminal illegal immigrants into our communities, we should deport them immediately," Gaetz told host Tucker Carlson, arguing that Democrats want "COVID catch and release" and the elimination of borders, and are using the crisis to try to set detainees free.

He warned that the international gang MS-13 "is getting the moving van north. At the same time, you've got them in inviting their cousins from prison to come live in the subdivision next to you."

Contrary to this fear-mongering, Trump's anti-immigrant policies have reportedly helped MS-13 in recent years, as undocumented immigrants have been afraid they will be deported if they come forward to testify against the gang.

In a press release on Friday, Gaetz said without evidence that the bill "puts Americans first by requiring that all illegal aliens be deported during a pandemic, ensuring our resources are used to benefit and protect American citizens."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)

A frequent critic of Cuba, Scott has tried to use the coronavirus as an excuse to end travel to and from the Caribbean island.

"We can't trust the info coming from Cuba & I've been very vocal that our nation must shut our border to foreign travel," he tweeted on March 19. He urged the Department of Homeland Security to "immediately restrict flights to & from Cuba & limit entry of anyone who's been in Cuba during the 14-day period preceding their entry to the US."

While there have been questions about Cuba's COVID-19 testing, experts say Florida also likely significantly undercounted its numbers.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX)

Babin used the COVID-19 crisis as an argument to seal the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Mexico is not prepared to combat #COVID19, and it will most certainly lead to significant consequences," he tweeted on April 8. "We cannot allow those infected with this virus to enter into the U.S. Now – more than ever – we must secure the southern border!" In reality, Mexico has had about 26,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, compared to more than 34,000 in Texas alone.

On Monday, he praised the administration for suspending immigration hearings for migrants currently stuck in its "remain in Mexico" program until June 1.

"U.S. Border Patrol agents are working hard to apprehend and remove criminal illegal aliens from our country as quickly as possible," he tweeted. "I'm grateful that the health and safety of American citizens is [Customs and Border Protection's] top priority during this pandemic."

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)

After Trump issued his April 22 "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak," Gosar urged the administration to go even further, by cracking down on foreign laborers.

"At a time when more than 26 million Americans are out of work due to COVID-19, the very last thing we should be doing is authorizing additional foreign labor. President Trump’s proclamation is a solid step to ensure we put American workers first, but the Secretaries must recommend the suspension of additional guestworker visas and programs that undercut the American workforce. There has never been a better time to truly put America first," he wrote.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Jordan cheered a Supreme Court decision in support of Trump's "remain in Mexico" policy on March 12, just as the pandemic started to shut down the country.

"Now more than ever, we need to secure the Southern border," he tweeted "President Trump's border security policy wins at the Supreme Court."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.