Washington, DC — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) blames his state’s dismal reaction to COVID-19 – and the latest surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths – on migrants seeking asylum at his state’s border with Mexico. Via executive order, he is attempting to restrict the transportation of migrants and target religious and volunteer organizations that help migrants, which has attracted a federal lawsuit. The Governor, who has national political ambitions, has apparently decided that playing the conservative politics of COVID-19 is more important than protecting Texans from the virus.
Abbott is clearly escalating as the COVID-19 crisis in Texas gets worse, as other political problems work against him (the state’s faulty power grid, attacks on voting rights and escalating gun violence). He also seems intent on helping his Republican senators – Cruz and Cornyn – who want to use border challenges to oppose long overdue and broadly supported pathways to citizenship legislation.
But the facts about COVID-19 in Texas, the Governor’s response to the pandemic, and the real story of COVID-19 and immigrants in Texas tells a very different story than the one the Governor wants his voters to hear.
Unlike the general population of Texas, migrants coming over the border are tested for COVID-19…
- Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma Pimentel on the argument that migrants are bringing COVID-19 across the border: “It’s unfortunate. It’s false. It’s misinformation, because it is not them. Since day one of the pandemic, our protocol has been established to make sure that no immigrant goes around without being tested, so that they’re not going around spreading COVID-19.”
…which Gov. Abbott is trying to stop.
- Texas Tribune: “Gov. Greg Abbott appeared this week to rebuff help from the federal government to give coronavirus testing to migrants before they are released from federal custody, saying it’s a federal responsibility to screen immigrants coming into Texas.”
What HAS been shown to increase COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths is Abbott’s measures prematurely dropping public safety measures…
- On March 2, 2021, Gov. Abbott announced he was ending every mandatory public safety measure in the state, including mask mandates and capacity limits.
- Associated Press: “Doctors on the border fear Abbott repealed coronavirus safeguards too soon and threatens a fragile decline in COVID-19 cases.”
- Public Health Authority for Cameron County, TX Dr. James Castillo: “And it’s a shame that we’re going to create new sources by dropping the restrictions.”
…which has led to Texas becoming one of the hardest hit places in the nation.
- Texas Tribune: “‘On a crash course’: Texas hospitals brace for another COVID-19 surge as delta variant burns through unvaccinated communities
- Times Record News: “Texas cases surge 79.1%”
- KHOU 11: “Number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in Houston rising at worst time possible”
Experts say that border-crossing migrants are not the major source of new COVID-19 infections in Texas
- Associated Press: “The surge of immigration to the border is also worrying, [doctors at the border] say, but far from the biggest factor in containing the virus’ spread.”
- Public Health Authority for Cameron County, TX Dr. James Castillo: “Is it the biggest source of infection to our whole community? No, it’s maybe one source, and there’s a lot of different sources.”
COVID-19 rates among migrants coming over the border are actually the same as the general population of Texas.
- Mayor of Brownsville, Texas, Trey Mendez: “The positivity rate we’re seeing with migrants right now is pretty similar to what we’re seeing across the rest of the state. It’s not as if these people are testing at higher rates or anything like that.”
- PolitiFact: “The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told lawmakers that the positivity rates for people coming across the border at the time was less than 6%. For some comparison, the average positivity rate in Texas was above 7% at that time.”