Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is now trying to pin new COVID-19 cases on undocumented immigrants, falsely claiming that “[i]n South Texas, we’re seeing #COVID positivity rates rising and it’s a direct result of illegal aliens being released into communities.” Not only is this a despicable lie, it’s a racist one with a long, disturbing history.
“The trope that migrants bring diseases that threaten immigrant-receiving countries is among the most pervasive myths touted in anti-immigrant discourse,” PRI’s The World reported in 2019. “Decades of research have debunked the idea that modern immigrants writ large pose an extreme health risk to receiving countries.” Not that Ted and pals care, because they’re intent on running on a racist playbook in 2022 even if it did cost them 2020.
San Antonio Express-News reports that Texas ranks 37th in vaccinations, with just over 43% of residents in the state having been inoculated. “COVID-19 cases are rising again in the U.S. after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day nearly doubling over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gathers.”
You know, if Cancun Ted is currently in the U.S. and really looking for one of the main culprits, he should try the governor’s mansion. Back in March, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott rushed to lift pandemic restrictions, including blocking “county and city governments from requiring masks, or from limiting business operation, or doing essentially anything to protect their citizens,” Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner wrote at the time. Just one day later, Greg tried to blame his superspreading on, you guessed it, asylum-seekers.
But when later asked to back up his lie, Greg had nada. The truth is Abbott “rejected offers from the Biden administration for help with testing and quarantining migrants, saying that job belongs entirely to the federal government,” ABC News reported in March. “The infection rates for all arriving immigrants are lower than for Texas as a whole, local officials and nonprofit groups serving those families say.”
Erika Lee, a professor of immigration history at the University of Minnesota, told PRI in 2019 that disease rhetoric has “absolutely been a driving factor throughout the centuries.”
“We know that whatever ‘immigrant menace’ was the focus of xenophobes in the past—whether it be Irish Catholics in the 19th century, then later Chinese and other Asians, of course, Italians and Jews and other southern and eastern Europeans and Mexicans,” Lee continued, “the claim has always been that these groups were not only racially inferior, but that they brought particularly dangerous and contagious diseases that would end up harming the US native population.”
It’s a push by Republicans in Congress in recent years as well, following larger numbers of unaccompanied children seeking safety in the U.S. In 2014, another Texas Republican, Louie Gohmert, suggested bringing in the Texas National Guard to “stop the invasion,” claiming “we don’t know what diseases they’re bringing in,” said The Plot Against Immigrants, a project of Western States Center. Texas Observer reported at the time that “Guatemala has universal health care. Vaccines are 100 percent funded by the government … By comparison, one in six kids in Texas is uninsured, and even insured families often must pay for vaccination.”
For Ted, Greg, Louie, and the rest of their Republican buddies, this is all gross, political gamesmanship. They are desperate for power, and have no care for the real-life consequences that can follow this anti-immigrant rhetoric. “On August 2, it will be two years since a gunman—motivated by racism—drove nine hours to El Paso to shoot and kill immigrants,” Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts tweeted. “Ted Cruz knows full well that his dangerous rhetoric puts a target on the back of every brown person in Texas.”