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The Immigrants Saving Our Lives Today are the Immigrants Trump Will Demonize and Blame in the 2020 Election

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Trump Keeps Eye on Fall Election; Bashing Immigrants Central to His Plan

As the lethal COVID-19 crisis spreads, more Americans are beginning to recognize the essential role immigrant workers play in our response. They are critical to the work of growing and distributing our food, cleaning hot spots, and delivering life-saving healthcare. Meanwhile, Trump, Stephen Miller and their enablers continue their relentless effort to blame foreigners, seal borders and kick out immigrants.

Trump’s xenophobia has a cost for everyone in America today fighting against the common threat of the coronavirus. Trump and his cohorts are undermining the singular and unifying goal of protecting the broader public’s health by singling out and bashing immigrants in order to win reelection in November.

A CNN deep dive piece, entitled, What happens to our food supply if American farmers can’t farm? underscores the indispensable role of immigrant workers in food production. The main concern of the growers? The inability to have a skilled workforce for its just-in-time production schedule. The workers that growers depend on could get sick themselves and stay away; they could get deported by ICE as the federal agency continues to do Stephen Miller’s bidding with raids and patrols aimed at terrorizing communities; or those who come as temporary workers needed during the height of the picking and packing season could find the door slammed shut.

Similarly, Ephrat Livni writes in Quartz, Will the US Supreme Court let Trump deport 27,000 healthcare workers despite coronavirus? The conservative majority on the Supreme Court seems to be on the verge of enabling the Trump administration to put Dreamers on a path to deportation, which the Trump administration wants to do – despite the fact that those with DACA are playing key roles in the response to COVID-19. The piece notes, “Beyond the 27,000 healthcare professionals putting their own lives on the line to care for the ill right now, there are tens of  thousands of essential workers among the DACA recipients—delivery drivers, food service workers, and hospital and healthcare staffers.”

Meanwhile, Trump talks incessantly about how his decisions to seal the borders (but not really) against Chinese, Europeans and Mexicans were heroic. Stephen Miller, the de facto head of a DHS who cares only about the administration’s war on immigrants, is raiding National Guard resources and seizing private land so the border wall construction can go full steam ahead; deploying ICE agents in raids and refusing to adjust enforcement priorities; keeping detention centers filled, immigration courts open and the deportation mill humming; and locking up unaccompanied minors or deporting them without a hearing, even though most have families in America waiting to care for them.

As the New York Times wrote in an editorial published today:

The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between carriers who are held behind bars and those whose job it is to guard them. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has continued to make arrests and has shown no intention of releasing nonviolent detainees, though judges in some states have ordered some released out of health concerns.

Rounding up undocumented immigrants and shutting down the border is something President Trump has yearned to do since long before the coronavirus began its fateful spread. And his animosity toward undocumented immigrants is affecting the efforts to contain the coronavirus far beyond the border.

As Miriam Jordan of The Times reported, the virus has spread more fear among immigrants, legal and undocumented — the fear that seeking medical or financial help will put them in the cross-hairs of the administration’s repressive immigration policies.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

At this dramatic moment, it is imperative that all of us pull together and work together to defeat the coronavirus. And all of us means all of us. Who plants the crops, harvests the bounty, puts food on our table? Who works as home health care aides, hospital nurses, attendants and doctors? The answer in many cases: immigrants. Our government should be embracing the real time talent, skills and dedication of immigrants – including the 11 million without papers – already here and rolling up their sleeves to help America.

Unfortunately, Trump and Miller have other priorities. Trump wants to rewrite the narrative to deflect from his historic failure to prepare the nation for this crisis. He wants to congratulate himself for being tough on foreigners, at the borders and against immigrants. He wants to talk about the fact that he partially closed the door to some Chinese, some Europeans and most Mexicans and Central Americans. Meanwhile, Miller wants to use the cover of a nativist president to relentlessly pursue his sadistic policy agenda.

Trump does not want to talk about the more important facts: he downplayed the threat while playing golf; he has failed to mobilize a testing and tracing regime that could have stopped tens of thousands of deaths; and he has failed to federalize the production and distribution of masks, gowns, gloves, swabs and ventilators such that our healthcare workers and their patients face unnecessary death.

A wartime president leading America’s fight against the coronavirus would ensure that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are recognized for their contributions and as the Americans they already are. But Trump’s priority is winning reelection, not saving lives. His strategy is to demonize and dehumanize ‘the other’ so he can juice the turnout of white grievance voters in November. And all of us will suffer as a result.