Maribel Hastings and David Torres
If one thing was obvious by the end of last week, it’s that COVID-19 does not discriminate, although the officials charged with confronting the pandemic do. It is an almost natural practice among those who have the power and, because of this fact, think or feel that they are immune to everything, including a mortal virus that has wreaked havoc on the entire world.
While the Trump administration, officials, and White House aides have done the unspeakable to turn immigrants into the scapegoats of their failed virus response, or used the pandemic to push their anti-immigrant and racists policies, some of these very same officials are now among those affected by the coronavirus.
Essentially, they proposed so much, believing in the presidential protective halo, that they jeopardized their own health, just like those other officials, today disgraced, who believed in the supremacist discourse of this leader but in the end, after being discarded from the Cabinet, fell into disgrace, without being able to restore their reputations in the short, middle or long run. They are marked forever.
In that way the presidential aide Stephen Miller, architect of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and who has used COVID-19 as an excuse to restrict even documented immigration into the United States, became the center of attention after revealing that his wife, Katie Miller, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, tested positive for coronavirus.
While Mrs. Miller, as well as her boss Pence, went everywhere including meetings without utilizing a mask, it turned out that she was carrying the virus. Which immigrant will they blame now that even the director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, and the epidemiologist Anthony Fauci have had to put themselves into voluntary quarantine for possible exposure to the virus?
Trump says that he has a COVID-19 test every day and that the result has been negative, but many of these officials have been close to him, without being forced to isolate himself for reasons of national security. The question is, how many people could this sort of president infect?
For his part Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health, declared this same week that it has been the “lifestyle” of the meat packing employees, in large part immigrants and minorities that unleashed the spread of the virus in these places of business. He does not mention the irresponsibility of the owners, who forced these employees to go to work sick in order to comply with Trump’s goal of reopening the economy on the shoulders of almost 80,000 dead people.
In that way, the economic system has a litmus test in these moments that will define it forever, depending on the model that is chosen in order to beat this crisis. And it has to choose between humanizing our practices, knowing that the energy of labor is what sustains companies; or, instead, turning back to the savage days when maximum profit was more important the life and dignity of workers.
Because of that, as much as they blame immigrants to try to cover up their own incompetence in the management of this crisis, the jig is up. And this Machiavellian scheme also does not flourish because it is these immigrants or their descendants that are represented at all levels: among those felled by the virus; among the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other health personnel who day after day combat the pandemic; among those who harvest, distribute, cook, and deliver the food that we continue to obtain, even in the middle of the crisis; and so many other essential jobs.
They must understand it for once and for all: the “new normal” after the pandemic must take into account the vital importance that each element has in the gears of the new societies that will take form in this century, which just surpassed its second decade. If one thing remains clear, it’s also that this nation must trend toward a social or socio-economic evolution, and not involution.
But what can we expect if the President of the United States is incapable of demonstrating a modicum of empathy toward the family members of people who have died, and is only mismanaging the pandemic response to serve what is convenient for him, personally and politically? Using immigrants as scapegoats is peccata minuta. But the virus that does not discriminate, COVID-19, already made its entrance into the White House where another virus, that of xenophobia, continues infecting our public policy.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.