The cases of COVID-19 are rising throughout the country, particularly in states like Florida, Texas and South Carolina. This is in part due to the lower vaccination rates in these states. However, instead of being responsible and actually trying to stop the spread, the governors of these states are doing the unthinkable and preventing local jurisdictions and schools from following basic CDC guidelines. They should be held liable for negligence on his part. However, to deflect from their irresponsibility and political games, they have somehow decided to blame migrants for the spread of COVID-19.
If the far right has already declared a war on science, they are now declaring it on math as well. Even if every single person entering the country from the southern border had COVID-19, it would not begin to explain the rapid rise in states like Florida and South Carolina. Quite interestingly, in Texas COVID rates are actually slightly lower in the border counties compared to cities like Houston and Dallas.
I do work at the border, particularly in the center of the current migrant surge — Reynosa, Mexico, which borders McAllen, Texas. It is true that the COVID rates are rising on the Mexican side of the border, but this is largely due to our unethical Title 42 policy, which prohibits many people from seeking asylum due to COVID-19 concerns. Because of this, they are forced to stay in unsanitary and crowded conditions in a park on the other side of our border, where disease is able to spread more quickly, affecting both the migrants and the Mexican population.
However, those who are allowed to enter and begin the asylum process have to go through a screening process first. I saw it firsthand last week, when I was at the border. Anyone who tests positive for COVID, along with their family, has to go to a separate location to quarantine. In some ways, migrants are one of the groups least likely to spread COVID because they are tested at much higher rates than the U.S. population. In both South Texas and Mexico, I saw about the same number of people wearing masks on the street as I had seen in stores in Charleston this summer.
It is pretty amazing to me that the same governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Texas’ Greg Abbott and South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, who are supportive of millions of tourists coming to cities like Charleston, many of whom are unvaccinated and untested, feign to have a deep concern about thousands of migrants — many of whom go through rigorous screening. Of course, it is just a bad faith argument that many of these leaders know makes little sense, but which will appeal to their political bases. Unfortunately, it follows trends that we have seen throughout history where we scapegoat immigrants.
In the current situation, it is particularly galling. Some politicians are essentially permitting COVID rates to rise while trying to strong-arm local jurisdictions, trying to stop the mitigation. As hospitals fill and people die, instead of taking responsibility and changing course, they decide to blame the most vulnerable among us. They want to scapegoat people trying to save their families instead of changing policies that might lead to angry social media comments from followers.
Somehow these leaders continue to make these typs of xenophobic arguments while still claiming to uphold strong Christian beliefs. The Bible is filled with teachings about providing welcome, comfort and love to strangers, even foreigners, with disdain for those who do not. These governors are using the migrants as scapegoats for their irresponsible and political games.
Unfortunately, a type of self-created and self-sustained judgment is ravaging our state and will affect our education system, hospitals and economies. It will mean children losing mothers and fathers and husbands and wives without spouses. Scapegoating has real world consequences and DeSantis, Abbott and McMaster better wake up and change course before it’s too late.
Will McCorkle is a South Carolina educator and immigration advocate.