Ron DeSantis tries to blame immigrants for his state's COVID surge — then gets debunked

Ron DeSantis tries to blame immigrants for his state's COVID surge — then gets debunked
Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, speaks with members of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., leadership during the governor's first visit to the base since becoming governor, Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Solomon Cook)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is attempting to shift the blame for his state's alarming uptick in COVID cases but he's already facing pushback against that effort. Over the last week, the Republican governor has taken aim at the (CDC), President Joe Biden, his administration, and even immigrants.

"Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands," DeSantis previously said. "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."

On another occasion, DeSantis attempted to place the blame on unvaccinated and undocumented immigrants. According to the Florida governor, "it's immigrants crossing the border — and not the Floridians he has encouraged to behave irresponsibly, the unvaccinated or the unmasked — who are spreading variants."

DeSantis' remarks echo the words of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Fox News' Sean Hannity. Now, DeSantis' claims are being completely debunked. An analysis published by The Washington Post explains why immigrants are not to blame for the latest accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID.

"This idea depends on three key misunderstandings," the publication reports. "A misunderstanding of the surge in arrivals at the Mexico border, a misunderstanding of how migrants are released from federal custody, and a misunderstanding of where the pandemic is actually at its worst."

The analysis also highlights a distinct Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. He explained how and why immigrants are typically tested far more than any other individuals in the country.

"Migrants 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," he said by phone. "So when we talk about infection rates of migrants, what we actually know is that a lot of people who are testing positive are asymptomatic; who, if they were in the United States, would have just never been tested."

Despite DeSantis' sentiments being debunked, his office released a lengthy statement in an attempt to offer clarity about his remarks. In reference to immigrants, his office did admit that migration is not solely responsible

"What we know from official data is that about 200,000 people cross the border illegally every month. They come from over 100 countries, and some of those countries where a significant portion of the migrants hail from, such as Haiti, have extremely low rates of COVID vaccination. Therefore — When the Biden administration discusses implementing vaccine passports for legal immigrants and tourists coming to our country, but allows the free movement of illegal immigrants through the border and around the country (especially to Florida, which 70% of migrants detained and interviewed by our state law enforcement assisting with border security in Texas reported as their final destination) without any mitigation measures, that is hypocritical.

If President Biden was serious about "shutting down the virus" as he promised, his open border policies do not make any sense. At the very least, it's unfair (not to mention unscientific) that legal immigrants, tourists, and even American citizens are subject to more stringent COVID restrictions than illegal immigrants are. If public health recommendations are about public health, these recommendations should apply to all people equally.

Hospitals report data on inpatient bed usage, ICU capacity, COVID hospitalizations, and other metrics directly to HHS, but they do not report citizenship status of patients, as far as I am aware. The concern is that some people could be feeling fine, but carrying variants from different countries and spreading them to higher risk individuals, who then get extremely ill.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor in COVID spread, and the governor has never implied that to be the case. The main issue that Governor DeSantis highlighted with his comments yesterday was the paradoxical nature of the Biden Administration's support for additional restrictions on Americans and lawful immigrants (namely, the WH support for vaccine passports) while allowing illegal migrants to cross the border and travel through the country freely.
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